Outcry as future of Sheffield’s Leadmill music venue thrown into question

Bands voice dismay at ‘devastating news’ but landlord says it will continue to operate as music venue

One of the UK’s leading music venues, which played a pivotal role in the careers of bands including Pulp, Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys, is at the centre of a bitter row over its future. .

The current bosses of the Leadmill in Sheffield have announced that they are being evicted and forced to close the venue, prompting a wave of dismay on social media. But that was firmly rejected by the venue’s landlord, the Brixton-based Electric Group.

Dominic Madden, Electric Group’s chief executive and co-founder, said: “For avoidance of doubt, we are music people, we spend our lives running independent music venues and the Leadmill will continue to operate as a special music venue. The management may change but the song stays the same.”

The Leadmill said in a statement on Thursday it had received the “devastating news” that in a year’s time “our landlord is evicting us and forcing us to close”. It asked people to share the news and send their favourite memories as part of a campaign to save the venue, using the hashtag #WeCantLoseLeadmill.

In a second statement, the Leadmill said it was being “exterminated” by the landlord. “They are destroying our business by evicting us. They intend to profit from the goodwill and reputation built up over those 40 plus years.

“Millions of pounds have been spent by the Leadmill (not the landlord) on the fabric of what was once a derelict building. It is the hardworking, dedicated and local family of staff that have put 42 years’ worth of their blood, sweat and tears into making it the cultural asset it is today. Without the Leadmill, the building we currently occupy would be nothing more than a derelict old flour mill.”

The Leadmill opened in 1980 and is Sheffield’s longest-running live music venue. It is also an important venue on the UK comedy circuit and hosts club events, theatre and screenings.

Electric Group, which bought the freehold in 2017, said the Leadmill was not closing and that it was investing a substantial sum in the venue.

Mike Weller, the head of music at Electric Group, said: “There was never any question of us closing the Leadmill, despite all the social media chat. The refurb will make the room better equipped to accommodate the modern wants of live music and club nights, for audiences and performers. We want to ensure the Leadmill’s future is as exciting as its history.”

News of its possible closure was met with concern by a string of big names in the music and comedy worlds. A petition has also been started.

Tim Burgess, the lead singer of the Charlatans, said: “Such a brilliant venue. Let’s do all we can to stop @Leadmill from closing.” He posted a ticket from a Charlatans gig there in 2001, to which one fan responded with fond memories: “Pinched a Wonderland cardboard advertising board on the way home. Had that in my room at uni for the next two years. Good times.”

The official Twitter account of the Subways asked: “In what world is this allowed to happen? Unacceptable. A heritage site that needs saving!!!”

The band Sea Power posted: “Terrible news about Sheffield @Leadmill. We’ve played so many great gigs here, and we’re back again in 2 weeks time.”

The comedian Joe Lycett said said closure would be “a terrible loss to culture in the UK”.

The Leadmill has been the venue for countless important music events, including the first Pulp gig in August 1980. A plaque was unveiled to mark its 35th anniversary in 2015, with Jarvis Cocker recalling how inexperienced the band was at the time.

“It was the first time we’d been on a proper stage, and when our bass player started experiencing feedback he didn’t know what to do, so he started walking towards the front of the stage and fell off it,” Cocker told NME. “People found us entertaining, but only because we were a bunch of mad kids who didn’t know how to play.”

Arctic Monkeys regularly played at the Leadmill in their formative years and debuted their second album there.

The Kaiser Chiefs said: We played @Leadmill in our early days and not only do we have very fond memories, it really helped us, too. It would be a huge loss not just for Sheffield and Yorkshire, but the whole UK music scene.”


Mark Brown North of England correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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