Exclusive: Gig Addict Speaks to Tramlines Festival Director, Sarah Nulty

Photos sourced from Tramlines Facebook

A jewel on the Northern calendar for music fans, Sheffield’s Tramlines returned this year with a new-look site. Looking forward to next year the event will see a huge milestone celebrating their tenth edition.

We got the opportunity to fire some questions off to Sarah Nulty, Tramlines Festival Director. She talks about this year’s highlights, future improvements, her job role, headliner wish list and more.

Sarah Nulty Interview – Gig Addict

Tramlines Festival Director

Congratulations on another fantastic Tramlines! How would you sum up this year?

Loads of fun and very wet! It wasn’t without its challenges, but the team did really well.

How long have you been working for Tramlines now?

Since the beginning, in 2009.

What is your role at the event/organisation and what does your average day consist of?

I’m the Festival Director. It’s a mixed bag of work to be honest overseeing the entire operation, making decisions on future direction and managing the budget.

How did you come about your role within the event?

I’ve worked across most of the departments, initially joining the company in the programming team to then working my way up to Director.

Any stand out moments or musical highlights from this year’s festival?

There are two moments for me. The atmosphere for All Saints on the Saturday night was amazing, as were the band. It was absolutely pouring it down and there was sense of real camaraderie in the crowd to stick with them. The House Gospel Choir on Sunday were brilliant and I got to hang out with some mates and let my hair down a bit.

Do you think the new “exclusive” outdoors element was well received? Moving forward will Tramlines be focusing on being an outdoor event?

I think the weather did not help this year, and the general consensus is we need more cover if we are staying with outdoors, which is definitely the plan.

It was great to see the return of Devonshire Green, are there plans to keep the park on the Tramlines map?

Yeah, I think Devonshire Green is a great space. We may rethink what we put there, but it definitely will be a feature of the weekend.

Will there be any plans to expand to other outdoor areas or venues in Sheffield?

Yes, we are working on that at the moment. Watch this space!

The local aspect seemed to shine through this year from local acts such as Liberty Ship opening the main stage to Smoke BBQ at the Peace Gardens. Do you have a focus on local talent, businesses and aspects when organising the event? Will Tramlines continue its support locally?

It’s a Sheffield festival and we think it’s important that people know that. We turn 10 next year and want to celebrate the city we were formed in by bringing in more of a local influence.

One area we noticed that could do with some improvement was the bars! The queues, especially at the main stage, were epic! What improvements or changes are Tramlines making for next year’s event?

The queues were bad on the Friday night, which I think was down to the sheer volume of people that came through to watch The Libertines, but also because of a lack of preparation. We’ve learnt our lesson and won’t let that happen again.

The fringe/city centre venues seemed to have another very busy year.  Are there any plans to bring the fringe venues back under the Tramlines umbrella?

The fringe is inevitably under the Tramlines umbrella – it’s the marketing of Tramlines that brings so many people to the city on that weekend. I think it’s important that it exists and it adds something to the entire festival experience. It needs to feel distinctive as most of the fringe events are free and so aren’t part of the official, wristbanded areas.

How’s the planning coming along for the tenth edition of Tramlines? Any acts already in the bag?

No acts in the bag yet, but definitely lots of wish-lists being passed about.

With the tenth edition being a huge milestone have you got anything special planned?

We certainly have, but it’s still a little too early for us to reveal anything yet.

How do you go about picking the festival line-up?

We start with a rough wish-list, but we need to work with who is touring at the time and also with the budget we have. We always ask our customers who they want to see and try to take a bit of steer from that.

With the booking process, how do you find out which bands are touring and available?

It normally involves a trip to London hitting as many agents as we can in one day and getting their availability list from them.

Are there acts on the wish list you’re still after 9 editions later?

I think it changes every year. Prince used to be on my farfetched dream wish-list as are the Arctic Monkeys.

With the Tramlines after-parties seeming to have a different crowd and atmosphere do you treat them differently to the main event? Would you consider spinning that off as a separate entity?   

We made them separately ticketed this year as we had lots of customers only wanting to go to that. I’d like to look at a way of linking them a little more with the daytime offering so it flows a little more naturally.

We haven’t heard much about the takeover bid since the initial press release, has that fell through? Will Tramlines remain independent?   

I haven’t heard much about it since just after the festival so I assumed it was a non-starter. Our plans are just to continue doing what we do best and that’s put on a huge party for the people of Sheffield and beyond.

Have you attended any other festivals this year? Apart from Tramlines do you have a favourite event or somewhere you attend regularly?

I normally go to Glastonbury but decided to give it a miss this year and go to Primavera. I love going to festivals and really enjoyed spending one in the sun this year. I’ve become a bit of a nerd and a bore to my friends at festivals these days by commenting on their site design and production.

What influences yourself and the Tramlines team? In a crowded festival market, where do you find the motivation to put on the best possible event? 

We’re a really small team that love working together which I think is key. The festival market is definitely getting more and more crowded so it’s hard to stand out. I think the mix of the main festival sites and the fringe make such a unique experience. The whole city becomes one big festival site which is amazing to see. I think we all love putting on parties, and have done for years, that’s what the biggest influence is.

Thanks for your time!