Plot 22: Sounds of the Underground
Mike Thompson of Exchange Street venue Plot 22 on how the Castlegate venue is here to support the city’s innovative DIY community.
Interview: Matic Mouth
For the people who don’t know who you are already, tell us what Plot 22 is and who’s behind it?
Plot 22 is a multi-purpose creative space. It’s a former retail unit tucked away in the old Castle Market district of Sheffield. After being put onto the space through CADs, it’s now the home of our community business, RiteTrax, which is ran by myself, Adam Seymour, Dalton Kershaw and Joe Gaughan. It’s also home to over five creative spaces and an intimate events space that has already played host some of the city’s most exciting DIY events in recent years.
The old Castle Market could be seen as an unusual part of the city centre for a venue. How did it come to be?
To be fair, we didn’t have much of a say in the location but we did fall in love with the space. We think the demolition only made it more bleak and mysterious, so in a way it’s the perfect spot for something experimental and creative like Plot 22. After going back and forth with several agencies we finally had a viewing for a space with CADs. As soon as we saw the place our immediate thoughts were that it was big, but that it was affordable and exciting. With the regeneration money getting pumped into the area and the old market site getting redeveloped, we’re well placed to help bring positive change to an important but unloved part of the city.
Now, to get this whole thing going has not been easy. I’ve heard that you’ve run into a few hurdles along the way?
We’ve had some ongoing battles with the council around licensing. It’s been a strange one because we’ve been working with the council to deliver events in public spaces but we’ve also seen them objecting to some of our events at Plot 22. We spent the best part of four hours sat in the Town Hall with the licensing committee and officers from Environmental Health and Night Time Enforcement Team. After quite a tense exchange we were able to convince the committee to let our events go ahead. We drew on the support of the regeneration team in the council and highlighted the impact we’ve had on the local music scene. We think that there has been a deliberate effort made to make the whole process of establishing an urban/underground music venue and hub more difficult than necessary. Having said that, we’ve received support from the local hotel owners and have been working closely with the regeneration team in the council to improve Exchange Street and negate problems with the local residents.
What’s the future direction for Plot 22?
The direction of our future will largely be decided by which artists and individuals come through our doors. However, we’ve got plans to expand everything we do. That means more focus on music, video production and a record label. We want to get a full premises license so we can host more diverse events on a regular basis and start cultivating a real underground hub. We also want to use the space to hold workshops and open it up as a place that the local people can have a stake in.