Dr Steve Haines
1 apr. 2022
Iconic Sheffield Venue Is Closing – Or Is It?
One of Sheffield’s iconic grass-roots venues The Leadmill may or may not be closing its doors next year depending on which reports you read and who you choose to believe.
The legendary club acted as a platform for many rock and indie acts on their way to mainstream fame including the Happy Mondays, Enter Shikari, Reverend and the Makers and the Arctic Monkeys. They even have a PRS plaque to commemorate the fact that Pulp first played there in 1980. Its significance to British music cannot be understated.
News was first released on Friday 1st April 2022 and was not an April Fool prank as the managers of the venue revealed they had been served with an eviction notice for March 2023. There was a huge sense of mourning in the music community and beyond that such a notable Mecca for local music was to close. Kaiser Chiefs, The Cribs and Tim Burgess were among the musicians bemoaning the announcement with the Kaiser Chiefs even promoting the hashtag #wecantloseleadmill.
Local MPs unsurprisingly jumped aboard the public interest bandwagon with Labour’s Sheffield MP Louise Haigh saying she would “fight all the way to save this historic Sheffield landmark” and has joined with four other MPs from the area in writing to Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries asking for an urgent meeting to discuss options for the venue.
Then on Saturday 2nd April 2022, as the dust had barely settled on the initial announcement, Electric Group, owners of the Leadmill in both name and structure, themselves made an announcement declaring that the venue was “never” in danger of closing permanently and rather there would be a hiatus for major refurbishment before reopening under new management. Dominic Madden from Electric Group added the pithy and cliched comment: “The management may change but the song stays the same”.
The current management responded by pointing out that it is through “the hard-working, dedicated and local family of staff that have put 42 years’ worth of blood, sweat and tears into making it the cultural asset that it is today”.
So what IS a venue and what MAKES a venue? In simplest terms, a venue is “a place where something happens, especially a concert, conference or sports competition” but this tells us nothing about the nature of the venue as a place for gigs. So is it the structure, in terms of its acoustics, proximity of audience to the stage, height of the stage, height of the ceiling and so on that determines how good a venue is or is it more about the people – the door staff, the management, the bar staff, the sound and lighting guys who generally drive the atmosphere and ambience of a place that make the venue what it is. It seems likely that it will be a combination of the two. But if you consider Nottingham’s Rock City, a similarly iconic music venue, a number of bands and artists have been asked about their lasting memories of the venue and almost without exception, it is the people that they discuss. Usually it is Rock City’s tendency to have current or former Hell’s Angels on its staff, generally referred to as “big teddy bears” or “gentle giants” or Rock City offering home-cooked meals to the artists it was hosting. The sole mentions of the structure in any way was generally in reference to it’s infamously sticky floors. It seems a venue is a synergistic combination of the structure AND the people with the latter seemingly more important.
So in terms of the future for the Leadmill, it seems to be a case of watch this space, though if the people are changing there is an argument to be made that it will not be the same venue irrespective of any other improvements that may be made. With this in mind, we want to HEAR FROM YOU. If you’re a musician, what is it about a venue that makes you want to play there and what is it about venues you’ve played that makes you want to go back? If you go to gigs, what gives you the best experiences watching bands? What is it about your favourite venues that makes them what they are? We’d love to hear from you so we can give credit where it’s due and perhaps offer constructive criticism where opinions are less favourable.