UPDATE: A spokesperson for Tramlines has been in touch with the following statement:
"As we look ahead to our tenth year, we want to make our 2018 event extra special. We are currently looking at a number of potential new sites including Hillsborough Park."
Additionally, rumours have been started that Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys are being lined up to headline the festival at its new venue. Its not the first time such a rumour about the band has surrounded Tramlines over the years and it seems a little convenient that such a rumour would occur at this moment to try and soften the blow of such a big potential move. That said, how good would it be to have Alex and the boys on stage in their native Hillsborough?
Original exclusive story:
The city’s premier music festival could be on the move yet again - this time heading North to Hillsborough Park.
It is believed Tramlines festival organisers are considering a move away from the current Ponderosa Park venue for the main stage areas of the big event next year.
Ralph Broadbent, a director of Tramlines, is due to consult interested parties local to the proposed location through a ‘Friends of Hillsborough Park’ forum meeting at Hillsborough Trinity Church, Middlewood Road, on Wednesday 13 September.
It is thought the meeting will discuss “preparing the site and usage of the park for the 3 day event,” with local residents and park users encouraged to attend to share their views.
Launched as a free urban festival in 2009, Tramlines began charging for specific venues in 2013 and its main stages relocated from the city centre Devonshire Green location to Ponderosa Park in 2015 - moves that were initially seen as controversial, but arguably allowed for organisers to attract bigger audiences and much larger bands including The Charlatans, Catfish and The Bottlemen, The Libertines, Basement Jaxx, Dizzee Rascal and more.
For the 10th anniversary of the festival a move to the much larger Hillsborough Park - a further three miles out of the city centre - could prove to be even more controversial, not least because many see Tramlines as a multi-venue entity consisting of many fringe events in and around central Sheffield. However, some would see it as a positive move for the main stage area considering apparent complaints following the Ponderosa events including issues with sound bleeding, placement of bars and problems for residents in the local tower blocks.
For the 2017 event organisers of Tramlines largely shunned fringe venues from all official communications for the first time, stating on its website that the festival “has gone outdoors” across its three traditional park locations (Ponderosa, Devonshire Green and the Folk Forest at Endcliffe Park) and promoting only one indoor venue (other than seperately ticketed night party events) - the Music Momentum Fund Stage located in O2 Academy’s room 2.
There were even rumours of some photographers being asked not to shoot any fringe events before being given a pass to take photographs at the main stage.
After the 2017 event finished, Tramlines put super early bird tickets for 2018 on sale, specifically stating on its Facebook page that “As in 2017, Tramlines 2018 will be an outdoor affair and will not operate in any venues.”
Of course, until we get some official confirmation from organisers, Ponderosa Park may be still be used in some capacity, or Hillsborough Park might be a further extension of the ever-growing Tramlines Festival in 2018.
However, this is not the first time Hillsborough Park has been mentioned in relation to Tramlines. Launching a community buyout bid for the festival earlier this year, Dave Healy - an original organiser of the festival, warned Vibe magazine: “If the event was taken to say, Hillsborough Park with a tall fence around it, it wouldn’t be Tramlines anymore.”
Conveniently, considering the festival name, Hillsborough Park is located on the tram network and just this weekend hosted an event with well over 20,000 attendees for Sheffield Wednesday’s 150th anniversary ‘Owls in the Park’ celebrations. It is also used to large footfall and capacity being situated next to Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.
The park has also played host to huge events in the past, such as the Sheffield Show, Mayfest, Euro ’96 Fan Park, Sport Aid and the recent Friends Fest amongst many other occasions.
Tramlines will return - whichever venue is confirmed - to run from Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd July 2018. Even if the main event moves, 'unofficial' city centre fringe venues will also continue to run free events across the weekend.