With tea towels and limited edition prints on the merch stand rather than mass produced hoodies and novelty underwear; and queues for real ale and hog roast snaking around couples set up in camping chairs punters set themselves for a very civilised evening of music with Mr Hawley.
Fifteen year old Doncaster lad John Lennon McCullagh was first to take to the Big Top. Ignoring obvious comparisons to a guitar wielding country boy from Nottingham the youngster’s lyrics are far beyond his years as he tells tales of a working class life. Threatening to tear strips out of people, the factories closing and the North/South divide: the track itself is set to become his first single in September. McCullagh is humble and grateful and his nerves are obvious but subside once he settles into a set of harmonica drive country folk.
Suited and booted Tom Hickox brought a band with the best facial hair of the evening (apart from Hickox’s viola player, who was sporting a glamorous stripy dress). With a bellowing voice that encompasses the whole tent, Hickox brings a sense of calm to proceedings is more a craftsmen than a musician. With each of his achingly beautiful love songs formed close to perfection, his set ends with a romantic ode to London, a nod to his roots in the capital. But being the only non South Yorks act on the bill doesn’t sway Hickox, he’s made a record with Hawley and is in love with the city, branding the opportunity to play an ‘honour and a privilege.’
With one bar drunk dry before Hawley had even set foot in the Big Top and the sun setting over Graves Park it was soon time for the former Pulp member to grace the stage. With a well styled quiff and rock and roll shades the Daddy of Sheffield’s music scene started with the almost ten minute epic ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’. Greeted with nothing but a huge mutual silence of respect for the man idolised by not only the famous musicians born out of Sheffield’s infamous scene but also by the people of the Steel City. Next comes ‘Don’t Stare At The Sun’, a tale of flying kites with his youngest son whilst more six minute songs follow. Richard Hawley does not write short songs, he expertly crafts spanning sagas of emotional tales.
He takes his music, his fans and his city very seriously. He dedicates ‘Seek It’ to Alan Greaves, a fellow musician murdered in Sheffield last year and all but one of his band are from the city, apart from his drummer whose grandfather was born here, so we’ll forgive him. He writes his songs in Sheffield for Sheffield and if there’s one thing Richard Hawley will not let his fans forget is how much he loves this place.
‘Sheffield rules. The end.’ Rings clear in the tent as Hawley reminds the crowd for one final time just how much he loves the Steel City.