Event: Tramlines 2017

On Friday we travelled over to Sheffield for the first of three days at the Tramlines festival. The poet didn’t take his camera, so these pictures are all from his mobile phone (apart from the nabbed poster).

Tramlines 2017

There are mixed feelings about this annual event. We think it’s great for Sheffield, and the taxi drivers and businesses agree that it’s a lift for them once the students have all gone home (there are two universities in Sheffield and a huge student population) and before the football (soccer) season starts again (they have two football teams too). Others think it should be a free event, as it was when it first started, and will boycott it, insisting on going to only live gigs that aren’t included in the program.

Whichever your opinion, it really does have to be good for business and for live music.

We got off to quite a bad start because we headed over to City Hall, where we thought we had to exchange our tickets for wristbands. We queued up there for over half-an-hour – apparently, they ran out of wristbands! – but when we got to our first main event, we then discovered we could have gone straight there.

Ponderosa at night (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We wasted quite a lot of time and additional taxi fares doing that. And then, to add insult to injury, they didn’t even check our wristbands at the main venue. And they were only checking women’s handbags. They didn’t seem too bothered about rucksacks or duffel bags.

The headline act we wanted to see was over at the Ponderosa main stage, the Libertines. And yes, he really did turn up. The weather was very kind to us – it didn’t start to rain until we were ready to leave. The sound wasn’t great, and the band were pulled off mid-song at one point. But the crowd didn’t seem to mind.

The Libertines, Tramlines 2017 (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Saturday afternoon, we went back again, again to the Ponderosa, this time to see Toots and the Maytals. We didn’t get any pictures of these because we were there with family and when we weren’t listening to the music, we were chatting.

Toots was my favourite part. They’ve been going for such a long time, yet he had so much energy and a fine, fantastic voice. Again, nobody checked our wristbands, but we did see armed police today.

Waiting for Toots and the Maytals (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Sunday teatime we were back again, this time to see the poet’s godson in his band the Kavaliers. They were playing the Tramlines fringe at the Rocking Chair.

They did a short set, which gave us time to have a quick chat and then make our way to Devonshire Green, where the next and last band we wanted to see were playing.

The Kavaliers, Tramlines fringe (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We arrived about 45 minutes early and decided to nip into Pizza Express for a quick tea. The waitress said it could be a 30-minute wait, but if we knew what we wanted and got our order in before a hen party that had not long arrived, she’d see what she could do.

She managed to serve us within 15 mintues … but within that time and the time it took to eat a quick salad, a queue had formed outside the venue that trailed all the way up the road.

We waited for 25 minutes in this queue, in pouring rain. The Coral were due to start at 7:45pm, but they held on until 8pm. We missed the first two songs, but landed a nice spot with a good view.

The Coral, Tramlines 2017 (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

What a mistake the organisers made in putting the Coral on at Devonshire Green and not the main stage at the Ponderosa. Some people we queued with said there was hardly anyone over there when they left, and here were we with the queue still snaking up the road long after we finally made it in.

We had a great time at this year’s Tramlines. I do think it could have been slightly better organised in places, and security should have been much, much tighter. Next year, however, if it clashes with the crime writing festival at Harrogate again, as it did this year, we might give it a miss.

Northern Rail (***rant alert***)

charlatans
The poet (in the hat) with our friends Sam and Steve at Tramlines (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Tramlines 2015 started on Friday evening in Sheffield, and we had tickets for the whole weekend. We jumped on a train in Dodworth and in just half an hour, and for just £11.60 (apx $18) for both of us return, we were there.

We thought that was excellent value, especially when you take into account the price of petrol and parking, and – of course – vehicular wear and tear. And we wondered why so many people complain about the price of rail fares …

We went to City Hall to collect our wristbands, and it was actually quite hilarious. It wasn’t very busy yet at all, but the organisers still had us walking in in single file, queuing at the right desk, and then exiting via a different door … all 2 of us …

Most of the roads around the festival stages were closed, and quite rightly too, but we were able to get a taxi to the main stage area and pick up 2 of our friends on the way. We’d only gone to see The Charlatans, and they were excellent – my very first time. I recognised the lead singer, Tim Burgess, and when I said to the poet, “That’s the only one I know,” he thought I was being funny … I didn’t realise one of their famous songs was The Only One I Know

It was great to see Sam and Steve, and the rain stopped before we were all drenched, but we had to dash to catch our train back and we had no idea how to get to the station. We were eventually directed to the nearest tram stop and got back to the station in time for a Burger King supper too.

The next day we wanted to see more of our friends, Bang Bang Romeo. The bass player is the son of the bass player in Monkey Dust and the poet has pretty much watched him grow up. This time, however, we were very disappointed with the trains … so here’s that …

*** rant ***

On a Saturday there is one train per hour going from Huddersfield to Sheffield stopping at all of the stations, which is fair enough if people aren’t using them. However, everyone knew there was a major festival happening in Sheffield. Everyone, it seems, except for Northern Rail. Did they put on extra trains for this huge event? No. Did they add extra carriages to the existing trains? No. And I’d like to know why.

Hundreds of people bought their tickets in advance to attend the festival. We had to. They sold out very quickly. And this is a city centre event with lots of venues and outdoor arenas, not just one venue.

We got on the train at an unmanned station, which means that we won’t get arrested for not buying our ticket at the station. There are lots of unmanned stations between Huddersfield and Sheffield. That means lots of passengers get on the trains and buy their tickets from the conductors.

Because there was only one train per hour stopping at these unmanned stations, and because no one thought to add any extra carriages to existing trains already going that way, the 2 coaches were rammed.

They were so rammed, hundreds of passengers didn’t manage to get on – loss of potential revenue #1.

They were so rammed, the conductors couldn’t get through to sell tickets to those hundreds of passengers who had managed to get on – loss of potential revenue #2.

There were no ticket staff installed at any of the usually-unmanned stations – loss of potential revenue #3.

There are no ticket barriers at Sheffield Station – loss of potential revenue #4.

And those who did buy rail tickets in advance and then didn’t get on their train will be reclaiming their fares – redemption of revenue.

Now, I’m not a rocket scientist (no really, I’m not), but even I can see where Northern Rail passed up an amazing opportunity to earn (and keep) money. So many passengers would have got through on those trains completely free of charge. And because no one was policing it, they’ll get away with it too.

If they didn’t have the staff, they could have hired temporary staff. If they didn’t have the rolling stock (excellent excuse usually rolled out), they could have hired temporary stock.

Not only did Northern Rail lose revenue themselves, they also lost Sheffield city centre and the Tramlines festival all of that custom from those who didn’t make it. Not to mention disappointed fans who couldn’t get there in time to see their favourite bands.

The festival itself was excellent, very well organised, very well laid out, very well catered, very well attended. It was a joy to join in. So why didn’t Northern Rail (and others) cash in on that success?

*** end of rant ***

Bang Bang Romeo sounded, looked and were great – the best we’ve ever seen them. We were also able to watch another band straight after them, who we didn’t know, and we had another few hours with Sam and Steve before they headed back to Nottinghamshire. We were close enough to walk back to the station this time and were half an hour early for our train …

*** rant #2 ***

So there we sat, on the designated platform (1b), where our 16:36 train was “on time”. There were 3 other trains at this platform in the time we waited, but they were all previously late trains. At 16:30 we were told over the tannoy that the next train to arrive at platform 1b was, indeed, the 16:36 to Huddersfield …

… only it wasn’t. It was the delayed 16:something-or-other to Doncaster.

And so we sat and waited patiently for that one to clear, and when it did, at the same time that another announcement came over the tannoy, we saw our train … at another platform. At precisely 16:36 we were told that the train now leaving platform 2b was the 16:36 to Huddersfield … and we had to get up the stairs, over the track and down the other side before the doors closed.

Fortunately we weren’t the only ones and the conductor had the decency to make sure there was no one else over on platform 1b. But oh, what a shambles! And our next train wasn’t for another hour.

To say we were disappointed with Northern Rail by the end of the weekend is an understatement, and now maybe we know why there are so many complaints.

*** end of rant #2 ***

We didn’t make it ourselves to the Sunday. We wanted to see Buzzcocks and more of our friends, The Kavaliers (the drummer is the son of the drummer in Monkey Dust … do you see a theme here?). But heavy rain – and the difficulty of getting there on a Sunday, if Saturday was anything to go by – put us off.

Instead we had a trip to Meadowhall where we replaced a silver chain of the poet’s and some sleepers of mine. Then we were home to a pork casserole with parsley dumplings for tea (made in the slow cooker by himself) (and the dumplings – his first ever) (and our own parsley from the garden!), and an evening in front of the telly.

This week, at work, I’ve knocked one of my daily “tasks” on the head – the daily competitions (again). I’ve not won anything for ages, and that half hour I’d sooner spend writing or reading or something else now I’m so busy with work. I still have plenty to be going on with, with several short stories to edit, another technical paper, and 2 books.

I think I have a pretty normal, straightforward week ahead.