Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

Sensoria Five unmissable events at this year's Sensoria festival in Sheffield

Highlights include a re-release for the greatest concert film of all time and an art exhibition in one of the city's brutalist icons.

Main image credit: Bill Stephenson

Sensoria, Sheffield's long-running festival of music and film, returns for its sixteenth year in 2023. As ever, there's an eclectic lineup of events in unusual venues, with a special focus on the gnarlier end of electronic music.

Curator Jo Wingate told Now Then that the festival is "a celebration of a city and its music, film, art and electronica."

"Our sixteenth edition will bring live music, film screenings, exhibitions and events to iconic venues across Sheffield," she continued.

We picked five highlights below, but make sure you check out the full festival programme, which mostly runs from 5 to 8 October.

Stop Making Sense

Director Jonathan Demme set out to capture a show by New York art-rock outfit Talking Heads and ended up making the best concert film of all time. Of course, the first element in its brilliance is a knockout performance by the band, with their militantly modernist songs turbocharged by members of Funkadelic.

But it's the staging and the way it's filmed that makes it more than just an accurate record of a gig. There's the simple white lights on-stage and the lack of crowd shots, both intended to allow audiences to draw their own conclusions on the performance without being swayed by the filmmakers. Then of course there's David Byrne's iconic big suit – which will only be more impressive back on the big screen in 4K restoration.

Stop Making Sense runs from 29 September to 4 October at the Showroom. The screening on 30 September will be introduced by music journalist Daniel Dylan Wray.

My Brutal Life

Chances for the public to step foot inside the imposing (and Grade II listed) Moore Street Substation don't come up very often – the brutalist hulk can only host events when it's undergoing scheduled maintenance every few years.

Fortunately, the exhibition looks cracking as well: a series of artistic responses to Sheffield's modernist heritage featuring contributions from photographer Bill Stephenson and local techno forefathers The Black Dog. Work by Mandy Payne, Sean Madner and Human Studio will also be on show, among others.

My Brutal Life is open during select dates from 6 to 16 October. Admission is on a donation basis (starting at £1) and pre-booking is required.

Nordic Giants and Bleaklow

Nordic Giants use multi-screen visuals, powerful strobes and exquisitely-timed accompaniment to create an effect that Sensoria's curators describe as "akin to a religious experience". The mysteriously attired duo will be sure to make best use of the intimate Drama Studio – the perfect venue for an audio-visual spectacular.

Support comes from local duo Bleaklow, aka Claire Knox and Richard Knox. They use four-track records, field recordings and minimal instrumentation to wrap the audience in sheets of noise, picking out a fragile beauty in the chaos.

Nordic Giants play the Drama Studio on 5 October. Standard tickets are £15.87.

Marcia Bassett, Ignatz and Oupire

In this collaboration with Sonido Polifonico, Sensoria present an evening of avant-garde electronics and weird folk, in the suitably spooky surrounds of Bishops' House in Meersbrook Park. The New York-based artist Marcia Bassett uses sound and light to "explore multidimensionality, meta patterns, and intricate relationship with time".

Belgium's Ignatz, with a name taken from a now-forgotten cartoon strip of the 1910s, uses the tape loop techniques of Eno and Reich as a bedrock for his spectral take on folk. Rounding out the bill is Oupire, a sonic collaboration between Dafydd Roberts and Johann Wlight, who will accompany an edited version of Carl Dreyer’s 1932 film ‘Vampyr'.

Marcia Bassett plays Bishops' House on 6 October. Standard tickets are £13.70.

Liz Hanks’ Land

Local singer-songwriter Liz Hanks performs tracks from her new album Land at the Cross Scythes pub, with inspiration drawn from the social and natural history of her Meersbrook surroundings.

Hanks says: "As I began exploring ideas for this album, I was drawn to the sounds from my local area in Sheffield. Field recordings gathered from the woods and park made me wonder, what was this area was like before the housing and roads were built?

I discovered that before the area of Meersbrook was built there was a beautiful valley called ‘Rush Dale’. Inspired by reading written accounts of this lost valley and looking at old photos and paintings I set out writing music to recreate these lost times and places."

Liz Hanks performs Land on 8 October. Standard tickets are £13.70.

Learn more

Sensoria runs from 5 to 8 October.

by Sam Gregory (he/him)
Filed under: 

More Arts & Culture

Flaming Assassin is catching fire on the festival circuit

Filmed in Sheffield, the crime thriller by filmmaker, dancer and martial artist Nathan Geering has been picking up awards. Nathan told us more about kung fu, ‘fire breaking’ and being invited to train with Jackie Chan’s stunt team.

More Arts & Culture