Live after Lockdown: Leadmill promoter Sam Feeley on the iconic venue’s future
Photo taken by Elouisa Georgiou
Sam Feeley, promoter at The Leadmill, talks us through how the famous venue is coping during the pandemic and whether socially distanced gigs could actually work.
Hey Sam, how has lockdown been both for you personally and as part of the wider Leadmill team?
I think I could sum it up as challenging. Obviously there are the fears and uncertainty about the future, which I think most people are feeling, but the thing for us has been trying to challenge ourselves creatively to still provide entertainment for people and try to keep some cash flowing in the business to ensure our future.
It’s a hugely difficult and confusing time for the live events industry. Have there been any discussions with regards to how the venue could start hosting live shows again? Could you tell us a bit about these potential avenues?
We’ve explored a few different methods, but with the social distancing rules in place our capacity would be reduced to around 48, which isn’t really viable. The other issue we face is whether the public would be willing to buy tickets to an event in an enclosed space at the minute.
In your opinion, could socially distanced gigs actually work?
No, not really; not as a business and that aside, as a gig-goer myself, I don’t think it works. Part of the enjoyment of gigs is getting involved, throwing yourself about and really getting into the music, which just isn’t something that can be achieved with social distancing. Imagine how bizarre it would be stood two metres from your mate having a pint, watching a band.
Until things become a little clearer, how can people support The Leadmill during these testing times?
We’ve been really fortunate so far to receive so many kind donations and while we understand this is a tricky time for everyone, we are certainly still welcoming those donations via our crowdfunder and our website. We also have plenty of merch available on there too, including the last few bits of original dancefloor!
To finish on a positive note, this year marks the 40th year anniversary of this iconic venue. Can you tell us a bit about what The Leadmill means to you and take us through a few of your favourite moments over the years?
The Leadmill means a hell of a lot to me, as I’m sure it does to many in our city. Even before I worked here, I’ve always thought of it as a true beacon of Sheffield culture. I always manage to say something different whenever anyone asks me this question purely because there are so many good memories.
Bombay Bicycle Club’s live return last year was really special, and even though it’s not actually at Leadmill, watching out on a crowd of 7,500 people singing along to George Ezra at Don Valley was a real proud point for me. Our team put so much into those events and it was the kind of event I’d always dreamed of doing, and a dream I had never expected to achieve.
On the club side of things, Club Tropicana was a real winner for me. Having that idea come through and go on to be such a successful night was fantastic. There is something really special about having a daft idea and then seeing people take to it so well. There’s nothing quite like watching 1,000 people lose it to Hall & Oates.