Found: Sheffield’s lost Britpop album

Download Speedy’s debut for free later this month

In 2008 I posted about Speedy, one of Sheffield’s forgotten bands. You may know them from their 1996 single Boy Wonder. It wasn’t a big hit but it did appear on a Shine compilation album at the tail end of the series:

Speedy – formerly Blammo! – released a few singles but they were dumped by their label before their debut album News from Nowhere saw the light of day.

The Speedy long-player has presumably been sat in a record company vault somewhere – until now. On 15 December when you’ll be able to download a copy of this lost album for free.

Nick from the Britpop Revival blog is full of praise for the album:

Oh boy. It is that good. I listened to the whole thing with a huge smile on my face. And then I played it again, and then again…It feels unjust that a band can take the time to craft such a fine slice of pop music and then not even get to release it.

It sounds good doesn’t it? And it seems Speedy are happy about it going out in this way, with former singer Philip Watson is appearing on Nick’s blog’s radio show in January talk more about the band and their great lost debut album.

Britpop Revival: a Speedy recovery

Sheffield street art interactive map

Thanks to Ritchie for taking the time to do an interactive map of Sheffield street art. If you’re not sure where to start when exploring then why not follow one of the suggested walking routes? They’re perfect for a lunch hour:

Help save Museums Sheffield

What you can do to support culture in our city

Weston Park Museum: jobs and exhibitions are under threat

Weston Park Museum: jobs and exhibitions are under threat

As you may have heard Museums Sheffield (which runs Millennium Gallery, Graves Gallery and Weston Park Museum) was dealt a devastating funding blow this week when it failed to get Renaissance funding from the Arts Council.

Not getting this funding means a 30% cut in Museums Sheffield’s annual budget which in turn means redundancies, a reduction of learning activity and none of the high profile collaborations with Tate, V&A and the British Museum which have resulted in a first-class exhibition programme over the last few years rather than the sort of municipal displays you can often find in regional museums and galleries.

Clearly it’s a major blow to Sheffield if our museums service degenerates in this way and will have a damaging ripple effect on the rest of the cultural scene.

If you feel moved to, it would be great if you could register your displeasure at this decision and persuade the powers that be to think about other means of supporting Museums Sheffield:

Museums Sheffield: make the case for culture in Sheffield

This amounts to interrogating the Arts Council on their decision. Email ACE Yorkshire at enquiries@artscouncil.org.uk marking it for the attention of the Yorkshire Office. You can also email Alan Davey the head of the Arts Council chief.executive@artscouncil.org.uk.

I’m sure you can compose your own email but good points to cover might be:

  • Museums Sheffield provides an excellent and museums service which will now be compromised – you might want to include your favourite exhibitions of the past few years.
  • Museums Sheffield serves a diverse and large audience – ‘Great Art for Everyone’ in the words of the Arts Council.
  • A decimated museums service will have a degenerative effect on the wider arts scene in Sheffield.
  • Why were York and Leeds chosen over Sheffield when both cities have a stronger tourist economy, more robust arts infrastructure and greater investment from the Arts Council already – surely Sheffield needs this support most.
  • ACE’s allocation of Renaissance funding is unbalanced – central England inc. Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby and Leicester all unsuccessful in their bids. London, Oxford and Cambridge all successful – rich cities and services getting richer and poor ones getting poorer.
  • Finally a call to reverse the decision/ find other ways of supporting Museums Sheffield.

If you’re a Sheffield resident its also worth contacting your local councillors and MPs imploring for local government to support Museums Sheffield in the absence of Arts Council funding.

You can find contact the relevant contacts on the Sheffield city council website and councillors.sheffield.gov.uk.

Again, good points to make might be:

  • Museums Sheffield provides an excellent and museums service which will now be compromised – you might want to include your favourite exhibitions of the past few years.
  • The people who will suffer from this are Sheffield residents from all areas and backgrounds.
  • A decimated museums service will have a degenerative effect on the wider arts scene in Sheffield.
  • Despite difficult budgeting decisions it’s time for Sheffield City Council to invest in culture in Sheffield in order to enjoy economic and social returns.
  • Finally entreat them to protest at the Arts Councils decision and support Museums Sheffield via local government funding.

Thanks for standing up for culture in Sheffield.

You can also follow @Ruskins_Ghost on Twitter for more on the #saveSheffieldmuseums campaign.


The text in this post is used with permission by the author. Please use it and pass the message round to any friends and colleagues you think would be interested.

Pub Scrawl 2012

Beer, art and pubs

The inaugural Pub Scrawl event is taking place this Friday, and it looks like being one not to miss:

For one night only in January Pete McKee brings you art in pubs… a pub crawl like no other. Pub scrawl 2012 will showcase ten of Pete’s favourite artists with ten of Sheffield’s finest watering holes.

Pete has hand picked the artists who will be using some of Sheffield’s best pubs as a canvas to exhibit their art, so you can be sure the quality will be high.

The event is supporting the Arts for Health Programme at The Children’s Hospital. You can win one of nine exclusive prizes donated to their charity by Pub Scrawl artists including Pete McKee – look out for leaflets in the featured pubs.

And Thornbridge Brewery has brewed a special ale for the event called Scrawl so the beer should be good, too. With ten pubs to visit it might have to be just a half in each though…

Pub Scrawl 2012 on Facebook event, @PUB_SCRAWL on Twitter and @fronbow‘s excellent Google Map:

Pub Scrawl artist Faunagraphic working with children from The Children's Hospital

Pub Scrawl artist Faunagraphic working with children from The Children's Hospital

In search of the Sheffield carols

A festive tradition that’s right on our doorstep

I love a local tradition, and the Sheffield carols is one of our best. It’s still going strong since it started in the late eighteenth century, when singers and musicians would gather in north west Sheffield pubs during November and December to sing Christmas carols.

The carols aren’t just the obvious ones that you hear everywhere at this time of year. Many of them mix church and secular material and are composed by local musicians, with variations of words, melody and tempo depending on which pub you are in. What’s brilliant is that some are still referred to by their local names, such as Bradfield, Stannington and Malin Bridge.

Although the basic etiquette for these ‘sings’ in pubs may seem a little daunting, tracking down when and where they are happening is easy thanks to the listings on www.localcarols.org.uk.

The first pub we tried was The Sportsman in Crosspool, on a weeknight in the run up to Christmas. Here we found the Loxley Silver North Band playing a mixture of local carols and a few of the obvious ones – someone even requested Jingle Bells.

The band sounded great, although with just a small gathering of people singing in one area of the pub, it didn’t quite feel like the full local carols experience. So it was time to try one of the village pubs further north.

The Royal Hotel in Dungworth is famous for its local carols. We headed over on boxing day and weren’t disappointed. The pub was rammed, with people gathered round an organ, singing their hearts out. This was exactly how we hoped it might be.

We were made to feel welcome, despite not really knowing the carols. We soon discover that many of the words and tunes are quite familiar. This is the end of Sweet Chiming Bells, one of the many variations of While Shepherds Watched (excuse the shaky filming on my phone):

The enthusiasm of people singing is infectious. Looking around, it seems like generations of families are in the pub, with nearly everyone drinking the tasty Bradfield Brewery beer, which is brewed just up the road.

Singing like this in a pub may seem a bit strange to some people, but when you think that this local carol, called ‘Stannington’, has been sung for hundreds of years in Sheffield public houses, it is hard not to be drawn in:

In fact, spending time with people who are part of a tradition like this is quite special. It’s heartwarming to be part of something that has been taking place for so long but hasn’t really changed.

I bought a Loxley selection songbook from The Sportsman (just £1) and now I know that many of the carols are quite easy to pick up, I would feel much more confident about joining in. What’s more, it seems silly not to make more of such a cherished tradition that takes place right on our doorstep, so I’ll definitely be back next year.

There’s more about the history of carols in this BBC documentary by Howard Goodall. The Blue Ball pub in Worrall is featured from 52 minutes, 18 seconds:

DIY summer at the Site gallery

DIY summer at Site runs 23 August-7 September

DIY summer at Site runs 23 August-7 September

Those summer nights

If you think that everything grinds to a halt in Sheffield over the summer with the students away then think again.

Tonight the Site gallery hosts the launch of DIY summer, a series of workshops, talks and events hosted by some of Sheffield’s most creative folk.

It runs from 23 August to 7 September and the programme of events includes a zine library, tree rubbings with the excellent Sheffield publicity department, t-shirt printing, a collage party, a gig poster exhibition and more.

You can pop down during the day to help with the DIY collage and browse the zine library, and then come back later for the launch party. Tonight’s do includes live music from Real fur, live art on the walls and windows from Sarah Abbott and a Thornbridge bar.

DIY summer

DIY summer programme (PDF 2.7MB)

Tickets for launch night and Facebook event

The Nichols building

Arts, crafts and antiques all under one roof

This week I paid a visit to the Nichols building in Sheffield. It is a large former grocery wholesalers near the Shalesmoor roundabout, dating from around 1854, which has been converted into a boutique shopping emporium.

There are over 30 units inside, mainly based on the first floor open plan area. It is a lovely place to browse and there are all sorts of bespoke goodies for sale, including antiques, art, jewellery, clothes, books, pottery, interiors, glassware and furniture.

After you’ve had a look round, there is no excuse not to stop off for a cup of tea and a piece of cake at the cafe.

They also hold regular knitting afternoons, small exhibitions (currently there is a set of vintage little black dresses on display, one from each decade starting from the 1940s) and a Christmas fair is in the pipeline for December.

I took a few photos on my phone which you can see below.

The Nichols building (also on Twitter and Facebook)

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What I liked about Tramlines 2011

Some of my festival highlights

So it is all over for another year. In terms of numbers, Tramlines is now around the size of Glastonbury, attracting an estimated 150,000 people over the weekend. The crowds were treated to the usual mix of musical genres, with most tastes catered for in some shape or form. I’ve picked out a few aspects of the festival that I really liked this year…

Friday night

Kill your darlings Kid acne exhibition

Kill your darlings Kid acne exhibition

It was an inspired idea to schedule the free launch of Kid acne’s new exhibition on the Friday night of Tramlines. If you don’t think you know who Kid acne is then you will have certainly seen his work around town. The launch was the perfect warm up to the festival, with live music, drinks, a look round his exhibition and loads of familiar Sheffield faces. Then there was plenty of time after to go and see more music, including Heaven 17’s homecoming performance in Barkers pool.

The Folk forest

The Folk forest in Endcliffe park

The Folk forest in Endcliffe park

A haven away from the city centre and well worth a visit even if you weren’t a folk fan. What’s not to like about lying back under the trees with the sun shining, listening to live music while enjoying a local beer? The heaving centre of town over Tramlines weekend isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and the enchanting Folk forest in Endcliffe park did a good job of widening the appeal of the festival to an older – and younger – audience.

The Busker bus

The busker bus

The busker bus

A handy way to get around and also a venue in itself. Watching someone perform against the backdrop of a vibrant Sheffield through the window was a brilliant combination. Half the fun was just turning up and seeing who hopped on to perform: it could have been anything from big local names to great new music or even an X Factor boy band fresh from the main stage.

More people and more venues

This year there were even more venues involved across a wider area of the city, including some of the more suburban pubs and cafes. And seeking sanctuary in the cathedral for some lovely acoustic music was a magical experience (plus having a drink in the pews was also quite good fun). More venues over a wider area meant more people, although this didn’t stop Tramlines still being a good place to bump into random friends.

Great weather

The sun over West one

The sun over West one

There’s no denying that a weekend of sunshine makes all the difference and this year the weather was possibly the best yet. After a very light shower on the Friday night, the sun shone on both the main days which would have no doubt encouraged even more people out.

The Tramlines brand

This year the visual identity of Tramlines was given an overhaul and it was a big improvement. Sheffield agency Peter and Paul designed a new font specifically for the festival, which was used on all the promotional material and also picked up by other outlets. The poster campaign featuring familiar and unfamiliar Sheffield faces shot by photographer Sean Bloodworth also looked great around town. It all made for quite a distinctive campaign that communicated one of the main selling points of Tramlines; that it was free for everyone.

A boost for the city centre

A busy Soyo

A busy Soyo

The experience of a trip to Sheffield city centre is a bit patchy to say the least. Many of the shop units stand empty due to the recession or in anticipation of Sevenstone construction starting, which has left it all a bit in limbo. Tramlines resulted in the streets being packed with people and local businesses doing well out of what would otherwise have been a quiet summer weekend. Anecdotal evidence suggests that trade was busy – there were reports of one bar running out or beer and another making more over Tramlines weekend than they make in a month.

Good beer

With an official festival brew in the shape of Tramlines ale, other local breweries like Thornbridge taking part and many of Sheffield’s real ale pubs on the circuit, there was no reason not to steer clear of the keg lager, even in the main stage areas.

Same again next year?

Overall it seems like Tramlines 2011 was another success. Some people were wary of the impact of a big sponsor coming on board, although this didn’t seem to make a discernible negative difference. Others are still expecting to see a lot more bigger names playing, even though this would be hard to manage at a ticketless, free festival.

For me Tramlines isn’t just about seeing big bands, or even being regimental about the music you do try and see. The friends I know who enjoyed it the most are the ones who got out and about and threw themselves into what and wherever their weekend took them, whether it was a rammed and sweaty pub or the tranquility of the Folk forest.

How do you think it compared to previous years? And what would you suggest for 2012 – is there anything they should keep, ditch or should be doing?

The Radical departures What I learned from Tramlines 2011 blog post is a good read and has some useful tips for if and when the festival returns in 2012.

The main stage on Devonshire green

The main stage on Devonshire green

Tramlines 2011 is here

Nat Johnson at Tramlines 2010

Nat Johnson at Tramlines 2010 and performing this year on Saturday night at the cathedral

Making the most of a weekend of free live music

So Sheffield’s busiest weekend of the year is here in the form of Tramlines. If you haven’t already then have a look at the listings to find out who is performing and when.

There are 70 venues so there is plenty to see, however it is likely that some will be running at capacity during busy periods and for the most popular bands.

My advice based on previous years would be to get there in plenty of time and be prepared to queue to get in. In the past, when one band finished playing, lots of people would leave the venue, giving other people the opportunity to move inside and get a good spot for the next one.

Remember that the festival isn’t just based around Devonshire green. The Tramlines footprint for 2011 is even bigger than last year, and the list of participating venues stretches as far as Heeley, Greystones, Sharrow vale and Kelham island. This should help spread the crowds out and ensure that you get see your share of live music.

If you use Twitter then keep an eye on the #TramlinesTraffic hash tag. The organisers will be using it to keep people updated about the queues and business of venues and they are hoping that people will join in to keep everyone informed.

Busker bus at Tramlines 2010

Busker bus at Tramlines 2010

Finally, if you haven’t been on the busker bus then you have missed out. As well as being a practical (and free) means of getting around, it is a venue in itself, with a programme of acoustic and unplugged performances running Saturday and Sunday.

Last year I overheard one old couple on there sat behind me discussing whether they should go round and do another circuit of the city. They were loving it.

You won’t have heard of every artist playing, but nearly every major genre of music must be catered for at some point over the weekend. And it isn’t just about seeing big bands: for me it is as much about mooching around town, stumbling upon some new music and supporting what is becoming one of the most high-profile events in Sheffield’s calendar.

The weather forecast looks OK, so have fun and soak up the atmosphere on the one weekend of the year when Sheffield feels like a completely different place compared to at any other time of year.

Shake Aletti at Tramlines 2010

Shake Aletti at Tramlines 2010 and appearing on Saturday at the Harley

Our favourite places Sheffield – second edition

Our favourite places: Sheffield, second edition

Our favourite places Sheffield, second edition

An expanded travel guide for curious folk

Last May the first edition of Our favourite places – Sheffield was released and it quickly became the guide of choice to Sheffield for not only visitors to the city but also the people who live here. It contained a hand-picked selection of fifty of our best-loved places, all lovingly packaged into a beautiful pocket guide with pull-out map.

Buoyed by its success, creators Eleven have set about expanding the guide to now include 75 entries in the new edition. Inside you’ll find recommendations for restaurants, cafes, pubs, shops, arts, parks, gardens and day trips, as well as a mini real ale trail and Sharrow vale road photo spread.

You can probably guess some of the more obvious favourites that appear in there, but it is likely that there will also be some locations you haven’t yet visited, as well as one or two off the beaten track. I gave a copy of the first edition to some relatives who had just moved back to Sheffield and they have loved exploring what the city has to offer.

At just £4 the original edition of Our favourite places was great value, and at the same price this expanded version is even more of a bargain. Get yourself a copy and discover the cherished bits of Sheffield that you’ve been missing out on.

Our favourite places – Sheffield

Our favourite places: Sheffield, second edition

Our favourite places Sheffield, second edition

Our favourite places: Sheffield, second edition

Our favourite places Sheffield, second edition