Yellow Arch: A trip to the golden arches
One of our favourite Kelham Island venues The Bar at Yellow Arch Studios has undergone a few changes over the past year, so we popped round for a natter with new Ops Director Stephen Myerthall and Events Director Russell Frisby to find out what they’ve done with the old place…
Words: Ashley Birch
In the early noughties I happened to be one of a crowd of local musicians who spent an awful lot of time in what was at that time Sheffield’s red light district, and it was all thanks to one building.
The lure of Kelham Island for upstart musicians back in those predevelopment days was mostly down to Yellow Arch Studios. Back then, for a few untroubled hours, you and your band could rehearse in suitably DIY conditions for the very reasonable price of a fiver(ish) each.
In those heady days it wasn’t unheard of for you to find Arctic Monkeys in the big room, Milburn rehearsing down the corridor and Reverend and the Makers jamming downstairs.
For me, it’s a place packed with memories so when they converted another part of the building into a live venue in 2015, and it happened to coincide with my wedding, there was no other venue for our reception.
Since then, the space has been home to a ton of epic gigs and became a part of the city’s rave culture. However, during the first lockdown Yellow Arch’s long-time owners had the time for a bit of soul searching, the upshot of which was the decision to hand the bar’s reigns over to fresh operators.
One half of the new team are Stephen Myerthall and Russell Frisby who form Reyt Bluesy Ltd and have together been steadily building the community vibe of the venue, while retaining its gig and rave credentials.
Stephen said: “We just wanted to go back to the original ethos and tap back into that venue that it was six years ago. We wanted to make sure that it was still a real neighbourhood hangout for the community of Kelham Island and Sheffield, where you can visit even if you don’t have a ticket for a show and still enjoy the atmosphere and have a great time.
Russell added: “We’re trying to model it on a Brudenell Social Club kinda vibe. You’ve got the venue room, but then you’ve got the bar, and then there’s the great space outside It’s a place where you can come down on a Friday night and, if it’s not sold out, get a ticket on the door. If not, you can just sit and have a pint.
“We’re still doing a few rave nights and we’re still the home of Planet Zogg, and it’s important that we carry that on, but also that we have a real emphasis on live music, and our ethos is built around that.
“I’m a musician, and I know Network’s reopening and there’s Sidney and Matilda, but 12 months ago you could probably count on one hand how many venues there were in town, and there’s very few small independent venues”.
“We wanted to create somewhere that was a small venue that fills that gap in the market and makes space for up and coming acts. I’ve been coming here rehearsing and recording for the last fifteen years, so it’s close to my heart as well.”
Thanks to the restrictions, it’s taken slightly longer than they first anticipated and the grand re opening lasted just three days before the country was plunged back into Tier 4 restrictions, forcing them to close once again. But the new team used the time wisely and now feel it’s made the venue even stronger.
“It was a benefit really”, says Stephen, “because it gave us six months to focus on the operations of the business, putting in the right products, finding the right style; we put a lot of focus on the outside courtyard improving the space with two brand new pergolas, brand new seating and making the vibe right in the courtyard. It’s a place where you can come anytime, enjoy the sunshine or stay until two o’clock, three o’clock in the morning. It’s a nice place to sit now. People love it.
“We always had a plan in our heads of what we wanted to do and with the closure, it actually gave us time to develop and do what we needed to do. We’ve seen it go on in leaps and bounds.
“There’s a lot of heritage here and we want to carry that heritage on. We fully appreciate what Andy and Colin and Yellow Arch Ltd have done for this business, and for Kelham Island, and we want to carry their dreams on.
“It’s a place where grassroot music comes from, where you can put on an up-and-coming band from Sheffield. You remember 10 years ago there was bands everywhere.”
Russell added: “The most important thing is that we’re not really changing anything. We’re continuing the vibe, but just trying to offer a broader spectrum of music and events. That’s the main difference.”
With that in mind, as well as a whole host of gigs coming up through November, they also have a bonfire night spectacular on Friday 5 November, featuring a bonfire in the courtyard, an epic fireworks display, food by Flavour and Flame, hot drinks and of course toffee apples.
The evening will also feature live music from Handsome Dan & the Mavericks, Slim Wilson & the Swamp Brothers and DJ sets from Babs. Kids are welcome until 10pm.