Nightclubbing – The Value Of The Venue

“Life After Dark: A History of British Nightclubs and Music Venues” by Dave Haslam has much to say about Sheffield. Pete Dodd meets the author, broadcaster and former Hacienda DJ to talk about his definitive tome.

Five solid years of research went in to Dave Haslam’s book “Life After Dark: A History of British Nightclubs and Music Venues”. But that’s not a problem for the writer, broadcaster and DJ – because it’s his favourite part of the process.

Haslam was speaking ahead of his appearance last Friday at the University of Sheffield Students’ Union building as part of the city’s literary festival Off The Shelf. Such is his love of his subject that he confesses he spent weeks pursuing leads which he knew would probably never make it to print.

He puts the enduring success of clubs and venues down to people’s need to gather together in the same place – a force of nature that won’t be defeated by the internet or any amount of ‘virtual’ social networking. “As humans we are very sociable, very communicative and very tribal,” he says. “It’s that part of our DNA as homo sapiens. And we like to escape and lose ourselves through intoxication and music. It goes back to the beginning of time.”

Sheffield was an obvious city for Haslam to visit. “I’m pleased to be here because out of all the cities featured in the book there’s probably more about Sheffield than anywhere else,” he reveals. “Sheffield features back in the 19th Century where I start, it features strongly in the 60s with the Esquire and all those kinds of clubs.”

The Limit and the Leadmill which launched in the 70s and 80s are also covered along with the more recent advent of the Arctic Monkeys. And activities at latter day locations like the Harley and the Plug bring everything up-to-date. “I talk a lot about the Limit because I interviewed Richard Kirk of Cabaret Voltaire and he had memories of the venue,” he says.

Referring to the mythologies that grow up around clubs, he continues: “Stories sometimes turn into something more than what actually happened. There’s lots of clubs where Jimi Hendrix supposedly pushed his guitar through the ceiling and there’s loads of clubs where Bono supposedly split his trousers, the Limit being one of them.”

To maintain the local flavour, Haslam concluded his presentation by inviting veterans of the Sheffield club and music scene to join him on stage. Brimming with anecdotal offerings were Stephen Singleton, founding father of local bands Vice Versa and ABC, Winston Hazel, the Jive Turkey DJ, and Adele Bailey, the Plug Promoter and champion of local bands and live music.

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