Sensoria is the UK’s festival of film and music, and it is based right here in the steel city. The festival known for risktaking and innovation aims to encourage and promote the most promising talent in the nation – being both informal and informative.
Events kick off on the 27 September and continue through to 06 October. Venues stretch through out the city including Trafalgar Warehouse, Abbeydale Picture House, and The Foundry.
This year’s festival includes some must-see events including The Everly Pregnant Brothers performing The Human League’s infamous ‘Dare’ album. Also on the bill are the inspiring improvisational, BEAK> & Ex-Easter Island Head.
SensoriaPro also returns for 2018 and will be jam packed with composers, filmmakers, music publishers and game developers all under one roof to discuss the latest innovations in music and the moving image.
We had a quick chat with Jo Wingate, the director of Sensoria 2018 to learn a little more about this Sheffield-grown festival.
Hi Jo! Can you explain a little bit about your role in Sensoria?
I take responsibility for all aspects of the festival and organisation from artistic direction to operations and finance. It is a very small team though and people pitch in on all areas. My background previously was mainly in independent cinema and I have experience of working on many film and cultural festivals.
How did the festival first start out?
When the festival started out there was nothing in the UK at the time specifically celebrating the cross over between the two art forms of film and music. It feels like quite an achievement to now see how many bands perform and festivals present live soundtracks especially. Not that it’s all down to us but hopefully Sensoria has helped set this agenda.
Also locally at the time, there was no major music festival in Sheffield and I had a lot of conversations about promoting the city for its wealth of talent – making all kinds of music. I was very lucky in that many local creatives bought into the festival and helped us out with things like free logo design and website design. It was a very ‘DIY’ approach and we wouldn’t be here without that initial help. Many local musicians also attended and supported Sensoria in our early days – our first festival in 2008 welcomed Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and Richard H. Kirk to name but a few.
What makes this year so special?
It’s now 10 years since we started as a company so that’s pretty special to us. We will be bringing artists and experiences to Sheffield that audiences here wouldn’t otherwise enjoy – and this year is no exception. The festival has expanded to 10 days this year to accommodate a packed programme of gigs, screenings, exhibitions and simply awe-inspiring events.
What do you think makes Sheffield such a good location for the festival?
Sensoria is inherently grounded in this city – Sheffield’s a hotbed of creative talent which we’re keen to celebrate – and we’ve even named the festival after a Sheffield band’s song. The festival just wouldn’t be the same anywhere else, our partners Sound on Sound feel that Sheffield (and Sensoria) is the natural home for SynthFest UK due to its musical heritage (despite calls to take it to cities such as London).
Are there any highlights from previous years you find particularly memorable and why?
There’ve been loads of great gigs and amazing outdoor screenings (Factory Floor scoring Metropolis at Magna last year was pretty epic against the venue’s 40m backdrop and with a robot introducing the film). We’ve had so many great guests from Bill Drummond to DJ Stingray, it’s hard to single one out – plus it’s often the extra moments that make your day anyway.
Seeing people connect for the first time and become lifelong friends makes it all worthwhile – including seeing musicians such as Wrangler meeting John Grant who have ended up writing an album together.
This year marks the tenth year of the event, what kind of impact do you think it has made on Sheffield over the years?
I think our impact has been on all sorts of different levels. We’ve thrown open the doors to many a venue for the first time after years of closure eg Abbeydale Picture House (Bo Ningen, Baba Naga, Lone Lady plus Tim Peaks Diner to name a few).
We do bring unique experiences to our audiences, often with a distinct Sensoria ‘twist’. And we’ve brought audiences here from all over the world for our one-off events – often booking out all the hotels in the city.
We’ve seen many young people flourish whether at workshops such as percussion or sound design, as placements or volunteers and it’s fabulous seeing what they go one to achieve. Obviously our impact on the music sector here, giving paid gigs to new talent and through initiatives like SensoriaPro.
How do you start planning Sensoria, do you work on it all year?
Yes, I work on Sensoria full time all year round – as soon as one is finished, after pack down, we gather together everyone’s feedback including customers, partners, venues and funders and take a look at what worked best but also what we can do better.
We have to fund-raise a lot but also start thinking of programme ideas straight away and sometimes visit other international festivals to view films and live acts. It really is never ending. We tend to have ideas in mind that carry over year-to-year and try to plan ahead as far as is possible.