Spotlight on: Sensoria 2018

Sheffield’s much-loved celebration of all things music, film and digital returns with another jam-packed lineup of innovative performance and cinematic prowess. Here’s what’s getting Mark Perkins all giddy in the build-up to Sensoria’s 11th instalment.

Three is the Magic Number
The ever-popular Three Ring Circus is back for its third incarnation. This consists of a trio of gigs on one night with the same three artists, any of whom might be the headline act – you don’t know until they walk out on stage. They will all be playing at three superb venues in Upper Chapel, Trafalgar Warehouse and the Abbeydale Picture House. As long as their transport between venues turns up alright, you’ll see all three, but the evening can be quite the challenge for performers!

Get Animated
Films with a live soundtrack are, for me, the perfect form of entertainment. ‘The Adventures of Prince Achmed’, was the first ever feature-length animated film, made in 1926, and will be showing in the University Drama Studio with a live score performed by Chris Davies. If you’ve never seen this classic, you should. It’s an enchanting silhouette animation, inspired by the tales of the Arabian Nights.

Continuing the thread of animation running through this year’s programme is a night of pure TV nostalgia. Those memorable Public Information Films, many of which were animated, will be celebrated in ‘Stop, Look, Listen’ at the Abbeydale Picture House. VJ Dan Conway will mix together films from as far back as the twenties through to the seventies, reuniting us with some of our favourite characters who kept us safe, while imploring us to Keep Britain Tidy. Tufty the Squirrel, anyone?

Earlier in the festival, there’s a showing of the Aardman favourite, ‘Wallace and Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’. But this being Sensoria, with its Senses Working Overtime theme, it’s a special ‘Scratch and Sniff’ edition. You’ll have to find out more on the night.

Amidst all of this animation, let us not forget the humble documentary film. And where better to show underground films than actually underground? In the Picture House Social’s quaint cinema, no less? You might not know it, but beyond the table tennis room there’s a cosy little cinema, which Sensoria are using to show some fascinating and rarely seen films throughout the week. My pick would probably be the documentary ‘Barbara Rubin and the Exploding NY Underground’, which will be the film’s UK premiere. She was a controversial underground filmmaker and performance artist who sadly died at the age of 35, but served as an influential contemporary of Allen Ginsberg and Andy Warhol in the sixties.

Capturing the Essence
Over the last ten years or so, the Sensoria team have been keen to find and develop spaces where music and film aren’t usually performed, resulting in some excellent and unusual gigs. Some of these locations have even sprung back into use thanks to the initial interest that these events generated. One such place is the Trafalgar Warehouse, where a good number of the events are being held this year. The first time I ever went in there was during an early Sensoria instalment  and since then it has become a major creative hub in the city centre. If you call in this year, on the first floor there will be a free photographic exhibition entitled ‘Steel, Street, Synth and Shutter’, exhibiting the works of Barbara Wasiak, who died over ten years ago at the tragically young age of 46. In her time she photographed many legendary Sheffield bands, but also became regarded as an accomplished social documentary photographer capturing the essence of life in Sheffield. It is free and open all day throughout the festival. There will also be a music space downstairs with a selection of live acts.

The Gigs
The show by the International Teachers of Pop should be one of the most exciting live music events to hit Sheffield this year. And kicking off the festival itself will be what promises to be a hugely popular event, if speed of ticket sales are any indication. The Human League’s seminal album, Dare, is being performed in its entirety. But this isn’t Phil and the girls: it will be delivered by our very own ukulele-toting cover band The Everly Pregnant Brothers. Quite what this will be like is anyone’s guess, as it’s not their usual comedic take on popular songs, but is an affectionate, slightly more serious tribute to a classic made-in-Sheffield album. We are promised special guests, but it is not for us to speculate about who they might be…

Image credit: Chris Saunders

Synth You Asked
On the final weekend there will be another tie-in with the annual UK SynthFest. Where else would you want to hold such an event but in Sheffield? Amongst all the flashing diodes and modulating processors on show, there will be some fascinating talks and demonstrations, and back by popular demand is the Dr Who theme tune deconstruction seminar, led by members of the Radiophonic Workshop. This was so popular last year that there were more people outside the room who couldn’t get in than were squeezed into to hear the talk. The post-festival celebration will feature a one-off performance from the Will Gregory Moog Ensemble. He’s the guy who provides the music in Goldfrapp, and this unique show should round off the day nicely for any synth-heads out there.

Expect the Unusual
Heard of a Tesla coil? It’s one of those ‘mad scientist’ props from a Hollywood film where electricity seems to be leaking out into the room in weird, crackling lightening bolts. There’s something going on at the University Drama Studio which promises to combine one of these things with music from a laptop and a synthesiser. I can only guess what this will look and sound like, but that’s nowt unusual for a Sensoria event…

Go Pro
If you’re working in the digital/film/sound industry, or perhaps more importantly, you would like to be, they even find time to invite professionals and others to an all day seminar and lecture event, under the banner of the Sensoria Pro-day. Delegates can meet, discuss and generally network with colleagues and potential collaborators for a day, based this year in the Trafalgar Warehouse.

More gigs
Picture House Social // 5 Oct // 8:30pm – 11:59pm // Advance tickets £15 (unreserved seating) £14 (standing)
Still flying high on the back of their new album, Time Will Die and Love Will Bury it, the post-hardcore rockers will top the bill.

Trafalgar Warehouse // 29 Sep // 8:30pm – 11:00pm // Early Bird tickets £10
Jlin performs for the first time in Sheffield, creating the future of electronic music with her original experimental sounds. Supporting act, jme.osc, previously known as The Curious Machine, will also be performing.

The foundry // 4 Oct // 7pm – 10:00pm // Advance tickets £15
BEAK> are a force driven by motorik beats and twisted synths. The band features Geoff Barrow of Portishead fame. Ex-Easter Island Head’s horizontally laid electric guitars provide support.

Bal Fashions // 28 – 29 Sep // 11pm – 6am // Advance tickets £6.52
Berlin-based Textasy and NTS Radio’s resident DJ drop the grooves.

Sensoria Festival takes place 27 September – 6 October at various venues across the city. For a full guide to events, timings and tickets, head to or keep an eye out for the official programme. Keep up to date with the latest event news here.

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