Why we can’t lose the Leadmill

With unsettling news coming out of Leadmill HQ over the last few weeks, we hear from Leadmill staff – and a few famous faces – on why #WeCantLoseTheLeadmill… 

One of the most troubling elements born out of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic was a tangible threat to our cherished institutions.

Our live entertainment venues, so long a key part of the city’s social and cultural fabric, were forced to close their doors for months on end and, during the darkest depths of national lockdown, many questioned whether they’d open again.

After navigating these tricky waters, iconic Sheffield music venue The Leadmill got back to doing what they do best: serving up an eclectic programme of live music, comedy, club nights and performing arts. The famous neon sign flickered back to life, queues were again seen snaking down Leadmill Road, and the dancefloor was once more bedewed by Red Stripe as it appeared to be a case of ‘as you were’ for the city’s longest-running music spot.

Leadmill sign

The iconic Leadmill sign

That was until earlier this month when news broke that the building’s landlord, Electric Group, had served staff with an eviction notice and plan to take over the running of the venue in a year’s time. The London-based music group – which runs other music venues in the UK including Electric Brixton, SWX Bristol and the former Newcastle O2 Academy (to be reopened this year as NX) – has said it intends to keep The Leadmill as a live music venue; but large numbers of outraged staff members, musicians, politicians and gig-goers in Sheffield and across the country have rallied against the decision, denouncing it as a ‘smash and grab’ move that puts jobs at risk, profits from the hard work of others, and could see the famous brand leave the city for good.

The hashtag #WeCantLoseTheLeadmill has continued to highlight mass condemnation of the move, while the venue recently announced an official e-petition which aims to prevent landlords from evicting long-standing tenants for their own financial gain. They hope that suspending Section 25 of the Landlord and Tenant Act (Grounds C to G) can help to protect vulnerable businesses who lease the buildings from which they operate, especially considering that 93% of grassroots music venues in the UK do not own the buildings that they operate within.

Jarvis at The Leadmill in 1988

Jarvis at The Leadmill in 1988

A Leadmill spokesperson said of the planned eviction: “This is an appalling attempt to shut down and evict The Leadmill by an unscrupulous landlord and is likely to continue happening to others unless we can get this changed in law.”

We at Exposed Magazine simply cannot envisage a Sheffield without The Leadmill. Over the years, there have been literally hundreds of gig reviews, interviews with both local and touring musicians, and memorable moments committed to print made possible thanks to this special place. Our gaffer reviewed a young Arctic Monkeys there; our web editor supported a young Arctic Monkeys there; our sales manager shared a post-gig dancefloor with a young Kings of Leon there; our magazine editor has zero cool indie band cred but repeatedly embarrassed himself as a young student there (and I’d do it all again!).

In an ever-changing city landscape, The Leadmill has remained a constant for over four decades. We’re proud to get behind this wonderful piece of Sheffield history and will do all we can to keep awareness raised around this ongoing situation – because, simply put, we can’t lose The Leadmill.

Joseph Food, Exposed editor

A word from the Leadmill staff

Emily Duff – Bar Staff at The Leadmill

The Leadmill was the first venue I ever visited when I moved to Sheffield. With a bunch of people from my University course I’d never met and in the middle of pandemic lockdowns and rules, we sat at a table drinking to the soundtrack of 2010 and that’s where I met one of my now best friends. As a young adult at University in Sheffield, the Leadmill took me on in a city I’d never worked before, during a pandemic, and helped me to further grow the experience in promotions that had been taken from me back home as well as in journalism, bartending and communications – constantly offering me work they knew I’d love and excel at, proving to me that I have a chance to start a career once I graduate. To have this jeopardised is a scary feeling. There’s few places in Sheffield that would offer me the same range of chances while allowing me to be flexible around University. To lose the jobs and team of new friends I’ve made here for the second time around is insane and I hope that we can stop this from happening to countless other venues around the UK.

Ben Hartley – Live Promoter

Finding The Leadmill as a teenager changed my life and magnified my passion for music. It showed me why I needed this to be my career, created a gateway to work with other venues and fuelled a love for the spirit of independence that Sheffield brings. They believed in me early on, and I had the pleasure of being the stage manager for over five years. I worked with some of the world’s best bands before becoming the venue’s Live Promoter, which was a complete honour. I have the privilege of working alongside the most wonderful, progressive and hard-working staff I could have ever wished for, all of us driven by a love of the experiences we’re creating together. It’s crucial that this can’t end, and that the team we’ve built continues to be sustained by (and provide opportunities for) passionate young people for years to come.

Adam Morley – Resident DJ of 32 years

I first went to The Leadmill in 1986 to see The Housemartins I instantly felt at home, like minded people dressing as they please to “Escape the uptown apocalypse” which was the strapline back then. I became a regular gig / club goer thereafter, becoming the resident DJ In 1990 and so proud to be still there 32 years later. I’ve seen many artists over the years including: Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse, Killers, Strokes, Muse, Coldplay, Pulp none of whom would have succeeded without venues like The Leadmill giving them their first break, built up over 42 years by people who have a passion to nurture & develop.
Sheffield is snonymous with great music and you can track all it’s famous exponents back to The Leadmill, we need to preserve that for the next generations to succeed.

Rose Wilcox – Head Of Programming

My journey with The Leadmill began 15 years ago, when I was at school in Sheffield and desperate to be involved in the music industry. I hired the venue, promoted some friends bands from school whilst scouring Myspace for up and coming artists that I wanted to book! The Leadmill offered me the opportunity and experience to learn and educate myself at a place that me, my peers and my family all loved. I will forever be grateful for the platform that The Leadmill offered me – the trust and time that was given to me, to be able to gain invaluable experience. I left The Leadmill during my twenties, but returned a few years ago. I think everyone that experiences The Leadmill carries a part of it with them wherever they go – the ethos, the memories, the feeling of togetherness. There’s nothing that can replace it.

Dan Campbell – Sound Engineer

I first started working at The Leadmill 8 years ago on a university placement year. I’d never lived in Sheffield before, but immediately felt like I belonged, and moved here permanently after graduating. It’s brought me to where I now call home, and set me off on my career in the industry that I love. I’ve worked with countless bands, comedians, artists and amazing professionals that I’m proud to call my peers and friends. I’ve gone from a nervous and inexperienced lighting tech to a confident sound engineer working with touring acts and local bands alike. I love what I do. To potentially have this taken away is so painful, and to think that others like me may no longer have this amazing opportunity is unthinkable. Over 8 years it’s been so clear to me, that while the Leadmill is a brilliant venue and building, it’s always been the people that make it. Take that away, and there’s nothing left.

Ash Birch, ex-Harrisons bassist and Exposed Magazine online editor

Supporting Arctic Monkeys for THAT gig…

It’s Sunday 22 January 2006, our pals and occasional sparring partners have released their debut album ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ and its crash landed in at the top of the album charts! To celebrate the release, they’ve organised a hometown show at the Leadmill, pulling together some of the leading names of the flourishing Sheffield scene, including Milburn, Revered and the Makers and us, Harrisons. North West Sheffield is running riot in the Leaders!

I can’t remember much about our set, and same goes for Milburn and Rev. Tonight wasn’t really about us though. From the minute High Green’s least likely looking rock stars skulked on stage to Warren G’s Regulate people fully lost their shit. From the vantage of side of stage, it was remarkable. I’ve never seen a venue then or since bouncing so completely in unison. There was no chin stroking appreciation, simply limbs and broken bodies.

Compared to the scenes out front, backstage was a far more sterilised affair. Full of industry, press and hangers on. At least until my best mate nicked a couple of bottles of their celebratory champagne and sprayed it all over our dressing room. Never did see that jumper again!

Celebs and politicians chucking in their two-penneth

A number of famous musicians, artists and MPs had their say on the matter last month…

Billy Bragg: ‘This is awful news for Sheffield and for up and coming artists looking to build an audience. The Leadmill is crucial to both #WeCantLoseLeadmill’

Louise Haigh MP: ‘The Leadmill can’t be replaced. It’s not a building, it’s an ethos. It was made by Sheffield for Sheffield.’

Jarvis Cocker: ‘This had better be an April Fools Joke.’

Pete McKee: ‘Saying the @Leadmill will still remain a music venue is like changing the name of @HendoRelish, adding anchovies and saying it’s still a relish.’

Pete McKee

Artist, Pete McKee

Dan Jarvis: ‘The loss of @Leadmill would be devastating to the cultural landscape of Sheffield and South Yorkshire. It’s a truly iconic venue that’s been a part of our community for more than 40 years. I’ll do whatever I can to help ensure its survival.’

Eddie Izzard: ‘The Leadmill started when I was at Uni in Sheffield. It was a great venue then and remains a great beacon for new bands and rock music in Sheffield and South Yorkshire’

Lucy Spraggan: This venue is iconic. An historical part of so many artist’s careers. An historical part of Sheffield. We really can’t lose it.

Joe Lycett outside The Leadmill

Joe Lycett recently outside The Leadmil

Joe Lycett: ‘This would be a terrible loss to culture in the UK.#WeCantLoseTheLeadmill’

Rolo Tomassi: I grew up going to this venue. I wouldn’t be making music if it wasn’t for the experiences I had at those gigs. Really gutted to hear this.

Sleaford Mods: ‘Sad news. Sheffield Leadmill is up there as one of those classic pit stops for any self-respecting band since the dawn of time.

To help save The Leadmill follow #WeCantLoseTheLeadmill and sign the e-petition here

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