Tramlines Festival

Sheffield’s flagship festival, one year on from its involvement in the government’s Event Research Programme.

Tramlines Festival performanceSince production company Method Events got involved with Tramlines in 2019, the event has grown to welcoming a record-breaking 120,000 people over three days. We talk to James Dutton, co-founder of Method, about managing a seven figure budget, hiring local and “going back to market for almost every major budget line”. Photography by Nick Pope Photography.

Explain a bit about your venue and your history with it
Tramlines takes place in Hillsborough Park, next door to Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium (which we used for dressing rooms, offices and event control). It’s a beautiful park which is much loved by the residents of Hillsborough, so a lot of effort goes into minimising the impact on park users with a phased build, as well as funding improvements to the park. Funds generated by recent editions of Tramlines have contributed to new roadways improving park access.

Tramlines Festival What is the event’s history and what made you decide to run it?
Tramlines has been taking place in Sheffield since it was founded in 2009. Method has been involved since 2019, when we won them a 49,999-cap licence. We then delivered the ground-breaking Tramlines 2021 as part of the government’s Event Research Programme – more on that below. Since Method has been involved with Tramlines, we have enabled the event to grow to become Sheffield’s flagship festival, welcoming 120,000 people over three days and help raise £103,000 for 20 charities.

How does the relationship work with the venue you hold the event at?
The park is owned and managed by Sheffield City Council, who are extremely supportive of the event. We have a great working relationship with the whole team at SCC, and we work year-round to ensure the park and community benefit from the event taking place. Regular meetings are held throughout the planning process to communicate and discuss event plans.

Tramlines Festival artistHow have you planned the layout of the event and what structures do you use?
Tramlines is quite unique for a metropolitan festival in that it occupies every square inch of the park. The efficient use of space and the ability of the audience to move around the site are critical to its success. We use a number of large-scale temporary structures including a 20m outdoor main stage from Star Live, a couple of huge big tops and a village of marquees and stretch tents.

How do you work with creatives to make these spaces work?
Our client has a creative team that dream up the decor overlay, which they then brief us on to facilitate with crew, infrastructure and site services. It is fairly light-touch at Tramlines, as the event is essentially a value proposition with great value tickets, food and drinks. The creative elements reflect Sheffield’s vibrant and friendly culture – and the appetite of attendees to have fun/enjoy the party.

Tramlines Festival man in crowdHow did you research and source your marquees, flooring, bars etc?
In the last 12 months we have gone to market for almost every major budget line. In the wake of the pandemic, and with the supply chain still on the back foot, securing the level of resource required to deliver an event of this scale is not straightforward. Fortunately we have great relationships with some of the finest suppliers in the UK.

We work with a fantastic bar operator – One Circle – who fully facilitate revenue creation at the bars and the full beverage offering. We provide site infrastructure such as marquees, power and water; they plug in to provide everything else.

For 2022’s festival we’ve spent over 50% of the seven-figure production budget with local suppliers, who are either based in Sheffield and the surrounding area or operate from a local depot. This is a festival deeply rooted in Sheffield, so we wanted to keep it local as much as we possibly could – with the added benefit of reducing the event’s environmental impact.

Tramlines Festival performanceWhat entertainment do you offer and how did you choose and source it?
There are six venues of artists at Tramlines, which range from the headliners (Sam Fender, Kasabian, Madness) to local artists born and bred in Sheffield. Our client (the promoter) programs this talent, which is then handed to us to advance and enable on site via our technical production team.

What provisions do you make for power, lights and sound? Any challenges?
The ban on red diesel was a real budgetary strain due to the already ramping costs post-Covid with a damaged supply chain and other inflationary pressures. We welcome any government support or grant going forward on helping us to move to more sustainable fuel options.

How do you manage admissions and visitor safety?
The ingress and egress at Tramlines 2022 were the smoothest the event has ever seen – an impressive feat given the record-breaking attendance. We streamlined many aspects of the user experience with the data we gathered at Tramlines 2021, this being one of them. This year, the full deployment of security was available from doors, to assuage any pinch points and get everyone in as quickly and safely as possible.

The operation is made more complex by the need to close a number of the surrounding roads (including one of the main arteries into Sheffield) during peak egress, but our (local) traffic management firm EST handled this brilliantly.

Tramlines Festival crowdHow did you cope during 2020 and 2021?
We ran Tramlines as part of the government’s Events Research Programme in July 2021. At that point, it was the first full capacity metropolitan festival to go ahead since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. We safely welcomed more than 120,000 people over the course of three days, in the first event that used the NHS Covid Pass as a means of large-scale certification.

We implemented two Covid-19 resolution centres on site providing testing, information and troubleshooting for the NHS app. We also provided detailed data via a live dashboard to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Department for Health. Many of these insights were then used to streamline the attendee experience for the 2022 event.

What ground protection do you use for cars and footfall?
We made use of trackway for BoH roads for HGVs, trackmat for pedestrian access routes over uneven ground, and Supa-Trac for pedestrian access routes in areas of high footfall. This was alongside wood chip in areas prone to becoming wet and slippery in adverse weather.

How do you publicise the event?
The event’s promoter – our client – always delivers an exceptional digital marketing campaign. That being said, now the event has a vast, loyal audience, the majority of tickets sell out as soon as they go on sale – even before a lineup!

Tramlines Festival scheduleWhat additional challenges have you faced?
Operating events at this scale is challenging when the supply chain is on its knees. We are fortunate enough to have great relationships with some of the UK’s finest infrastructure suppliers, but that’s not to say we don’t experience the occasional curveball. In the run up to the event we were closely monitoring the logistics of our key suppliers to ensure trucks arrived in the right order, with the right equipment, and that there was enough redundancy in the site team and production crew to flex in line with any adjustments to the build schedule.

What are your plans for next year?
Even though we are still dismantling the site from this year’s edition, we already have some exciting ideas on how to improve on the event for 2023. Changes include further developing our gold-standard access provisions, which are increasingly popular.

What advice could you give to someone coming into the outdoor event industry?
It’s super helpful to have a holistic understanding of how outdoor events are run. A great way to start is by working in a number of roles across a range of events. The more of the inner workings you understand, the better you will perform once you have decided on your preferred role. So much of event delivery is reliant on teamwork – and having empathy for the workload and challenges of the people around you will benefit the event and not go unnoticed.

Tramlines Festival planning


Shield Manufacturing

Star Live

Zigzag Lighting

Buffalo Power

One Circle
D&J Catering


A1 Group


Let’s Tech
One World Rental



Tramlines Festival crowd at performance


Tramlines Festival
Hillsborough Park
Parkside Road
Sheffield S6 2AB

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