Kate Hewett, head of bookings for Tramlines, and AIF member, discusses how the history and geography of a city affects its events scene


Last summer, as we approached our seventh Tramlines, I began to consider the ways in which the geography of Sheffield – the city itself – had impacted on the makeup and the mood of the festival.

We’d recently taken the decision to move our main stage to a new site, having found that its original city centre home could no longer house our growing audience.

Our production team inspected various sites before settling on the Ponderosa Park, a huge green space ringed by blocks of flats which, according to local lore, earned its unusual name care of the neighbourhood kids, who had christened it in honour of the ranch in the 1960s TV show, Bonanza.

A fortuitous amphitheatre, the site makes for an ideal home for the main stage, which is just one element of a festival that also hands the reins to the individuals working across the landscape of Sheffield culture.

The site had been comprehensively blitzed during World War II, and then deprived of the rapid march of regeneration afforded to a few of its neighbours – central Sheffield is a compact cornucopia of brutalist architecture.

Against this backdrop, certain creatives began a fruitful relationship with repurposed spaces, and we owe a significant portion of the festival’s after-dark personality to the nocturnal music nerds and bass music aficionados who have laid claim to the long-neglected spaces and low architecture of the city’s industrial past.

The inhospitable nature of the city’s centre has long forced the hand of its creative community, and many of the most exciting developments in the city continue to occur on the fringes; in the scrappy, hustling underground and DIY collectives, who collaborate and co-exist to unearth audio, visual and tactile concoctions.

Many of the decisions we’ve taken over the years mirrored the community input of the Ponderosa’s locals, working from the outset in collaboration with the city’s creative consorts, with much of the festival’s personality shaped and honed by those working at its heart all year round.