A Sheffield song called Seven hills

Robberie’s song about our city

Find out more on robberie.com. The single is available from Record Collector or Tonearm Vinyl, or digitally on iTunes, Bandcamp, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon and more.

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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

Iconic music locations in Sheffield

Rock Atlas

Rock Atlas

The Pack Horse pub and King Mojo club feature in new book

Sheffield is a world-famous music city, but where are the iconic music locations?

A new book called Rock Atlas features the stories behind 650 music locations. The publisher has let us post two of the Sheffield locations on here.

Arctic Monkeys’ champagne chart rundown at The Pack Horse

The Pack Horse pub in High Green is where the Arctic Monkeys, and as many of their fans who could squeeze in with them, first heard the news they had made their chart debut at No.1.

On a Sunday in October 2005, requesting the landlord to switch on the chart rundown on the pub radio, the band settled down to toast their success at whichever point I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor entered the Top 40.

The noisy gathering were not disappointed. As Monkey Alex Turner recalled when talking to Mojo magazine, “I think the Sugababes had a big tune out the same week and we just thought, “There’s no way this is gonna happen. It’s great if we even got Top 10.” And then they played the Sugababes tune at No.2 and everyone cheered. People were jumping on pool tables, and it were all champagne and nonsense.”

Soul and Hendrix at Stringfellow’s Mojo

Soul music’s Sixties popularity coincided with the opening of a new club catering for the very American style of music in a quiet road north of the city centre.

The Mojo club (or King Mojo) was situated in a Victorian bow-window-fronted house run by local youngster Peter Stringfellow, who later became the internationally famous celebrity night-club owner. Stringfellow and his two brothers would advertise a records-only night once a week and hype up the playlist in the local paper.

When hosting live acts, the place boasted Edwin Starr’s first UK appearance and attracted the cream of US soul and R&B to this innovative new venture, which made its debut in 1964. Soon attracting a dedicated and enthusiastic mod clientele, the Mojo hosted The Who, The Kinks and The Small Faces at the out-of-town address in Pitsmoor Road.

Much like Liverpool’s Casbah Club, this residential road venue was decorated inside with pop art wall murals and posters, and when the psychedelic era arrived Stringfellow switched the musical emphasis, renaming the place The Beautiful King Mojo.

Shortly after booking Jimi Hendrix, who was the subject of a botched drugs raid by the local constabulary, the club closed in February 1967 when some neighbours campaigned against the noise and nuisance caused by a hugely exciting venture in a rather inappropriate suburban location.

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

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

Peace in the park and Weston party 2011

Free fundraising festivals this weekend

Keep your fingers crossed for good weather this weekend as there are two good outdoor events to look forward to, and both are raising money for good causes.

On Saturday, Peace in the park (also on Facebook and Twitter) takes place at the Ponderosa in Upperthorpe. This annual community festival is now in its eighth year and donates any money raised to nominated local and international charities.

Expect live music across various stages, a cabaret bar, DJs, a kids area, cycling activities, the healing and learning area and you can even get involved in a world record attempt.

Driftrun: organising and playing Weston party 2011

Driftrun: organising and playing Weston party 2011

And the following day just up the road in Weston park is the second Weston party (Facebook).

Last year, this post-Tramlines afternoon of live music took place over August bank holiday weekend. This year, the organisers Driftrun have moved it to June, but the idea is still the same: a chance to see local bands play outdoors while you relax in the park with your picnic.

Artists playing include Alvarez kings, Playground mafia, Jon Windle (ex-Little man tate), Driftrun plus Steve Edwards. Once again, there will be a collection to raise money for Sheffield Children’s hospital.

At the time of writing the weather forecast looks pretty good for the weekend, let’s hope it is right.

Weston party 2011

Weston party 2011

Sensoria 2011, Sheffield

Sensoria 2011 programme

Sensoria, the UK's festival of music, film and digital

The festival of film and music

Sheffield’s spring festival of film, music and digital returns for 2011, bringing together events, gigs, screenings and exhibitions across a packed ten-day programme.

The opening day on Friday is now of course a public holiday, so if you want to avoid a certain other event taking place that day then why not visit the Devonshire street party and market? And later on, a free festival of live music kicks off at the Washy, with sets from the Violet may and Pete David and the Payroll union over the course of the weekend.

On Saturday, a secret location plays host to a (Re)mixed in Sheffield warehouse party. It features plenty of great artists like Toddla T, Heaven 17, I monster, Lords of flatbush and Asbo a-go-go.

The Bibliotheque discotheque event (Tuesday 3 May) sees a disco of sorts located in the Central library. I recently heard a good documentary which gave an insight into the world of library music. It is amazing just how many of the TV themes that were originally library tracks we’ve sub-consciously absorbed into our national psyche. The library disco should give a glimpse into this world.

You may have seen a big screen in Tudor square for the snooker and Sensoria will also continuing this with its very own Screen on the square. Each day has a specified programme of films, including Sheffield on film from 6pm on Wednesday 4 May.

Excellent Sheffield-based photographer Shaun Bloodworth has his first solo exhibition as part of the festival. Underground, running 28 April-16 May at Bank street arts, documents the electronic music scene since 2005.

If you’re a musician or filmmaker then Sensoria pro (5-6 May) has now been expanded to two days. And at 6pm on Thursday 5 the Electric works hosts the launch of 2 weeks 2 make it, a music video competition.

Speaking of competitions, throughout the festival you can also see an exhibition of entries to the Thornbridge/Sensoria beer mat competition in the Winter garden. The winning mats (below) feature lyrics from Sheffield bands Pulp, ABC, the Human league and Artery, as well as some local photos. You may have already seen in pubs stocking Thornbridge beer.

These are just a few of the events taking place. Visit the Sensoria website for the full listings.

Sensoria beer mats

Look out for the Sensoria beer mats in Sheffield pubs

Sounds of the city Sheffield charity compilation

Sounds of the city Sheffield charity compilation

Sounds of the city Sheffield charity compilation

Featuring The Heebie Jeebies, Renegade Brass Band and Screaming Maldini

The Sheffield edition of this new compilation series features ten local bands and is to raise money for the Cash for kids charity.

It is released on Friday 29 April and as well as being available online, they hope to have it for sale in Arcade at the Forum.

You can listen to the songs on it below – play from track 11 (tracks 1-10 are from the the Birmingham compilation).

Sounds of the city Sheffield compilation

Sharrow lantern festival

Have you seen the lights?

The procession at Sharrow lantern festival

The procession at Sharrow lantern festival

Sunday night saw the annual lantern festival take over the streets of Sharrow. I don’t live in the neighbourhood but the reputation of the festival has been growing for a few years now so I decided it was time to check it out.

In the weeks leading up to it, workshops took place to help people craft a lantern to carry in the procession. On the day of the festival, crowds would then gather at dusk in Mount pleasant park before setting off and parading through Sharrow to Cemetery park.

This year’s procession was again led by the Sheffield samba band, who were brilliant. Everyone else followed: many people proudly carried ‘elements’-themed lanterns in all shapes and sizes, while some were dressed up and others had their faces adorned with face paints. It didn’t matter if you hadn’t prepared anything though, as everyone was welcome to tag along regardless.

As the carnival wove its way through the streets, residents gathered in doorways and faces pressed up against windows to catch a glimpse of the festivities and see what the noise was all about.

On joining London road, we turned left towards town and headed for Cemetery park for live music, fire spinners and the spectacular lantern release. And for those wanting to continue the festivities, bands and DJs carried on at the Cremorne pub until late.

It looks like 2011 will be the final year that organisers Creative action network will be managing the event. There is no suggestion that it won’t be going ahead next April though and they are inviting people to get involved with the organisation. Do get in touch with them if you fancy it.

I’d definitely recommend getting involved in next year’s event, whether you are eight or 80. I didn’t really know what to expect, and when the rain came down on Sunday afternoon – following a hefty mother’s day meal – it was quite tempting not to bother venturing out. But I’m really glad I did, as I got to not just see but actually participate in another heart-warming example of grassroots Sheffield culture and community spirit.

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