Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Famed recording studio, gig venue and home to some of the biggest alternative club nights in Sheff, Yellow Arch Studios has become one of the city’s most versatile event spots – and 2018 is shaping up to be another big one at the historic Burton Road site. Greg Brown spoke to the man behind the bookings, Spencer Edwins, to reflect on a big couple of years and how the team are planning to build on recent success.

Tell us a bit about your role here at Yellow Arch?
I’m the promotions and marketing manager, so I deal with bookings and promotion of Yellow Arch gigs and external promoter events. I also create the posters, flyers and manage our social media – as well as managing the events on the night alongside our Production Manager, Theo.

How long have you been here?
Around 18 months in total. I was previously working a very normal 9-5 in digital marketing, while promoting gigs in my spare time. The opportunity came up at Yellow Arch and I gradually worked my way into a full-time position. I’ve promoted gigs since I was 17, and over the years have done a number of different nights at venues like The Night Kitchen, Fez, The Rocking Chair and The Riverside – but Yellow Arch is the first venue I’ve been employed by.

So what are your plans for Yellow Arch as a venue and brand?
Less plans, more big ambitions! There’s so much potential for bringing more good music to Sheffield – our rave scene is amazing but for live music we’re still often outweighed by our neighbours in Manchester and Leeds. The overarching plan is to bring more high quality, left-of-field live music into our city; keeping our line ups exciting while introducing newer talent to the masses. We all share the dream of where Yellow Arch will be, but it’s time-dependent – we have less of a timescale on it, more just “in the future”. Everyone who works here is very passionate and the venue will always be a work in progress.

With the new venues that have opened in Sheffield this year, have you felt increased pressure to compete with your nights at all?
Not really, it’s cool to see people doing new things – Yellow Arch has always been in it for the love of the music and the scene. Having new venues also keeps us from becoming complacent and getting lazy with our events, plus it helps to develop the Sheffield music scene. The more the merrier, we say!

We’ve heard rumours of a party in February to celebrate three years of being a venue? Anything you can reveal about that?
Yes, the rumours are true. It’s not like we need an excuse to party, but if we can find one, we will use it! That will be happening on Friday February 2nd and it’s going to be another big one – we had our second birthday last February with New York Brass Band and that was good fun. We’re very blessed to have The Busy Twist coming up from London to headline, alongside some of Sheffield’s finest globally-influenced bands and DJs. Don’t miss that one!

Speaking personally, but also from a lot of other feedback, we love that Yellow Arch offers so many different events like beer festivals and art exhibitions. Is that something you’ll doing more of?
Yeah, definitely. The space is so versatile; we love having that diversity and appreciating all the things people are doing in Sheffield. Obviously, music underlies everything but we love celebrating anything and everything creative. Keep your eyes peeled for comedy and variety shows coming later this year, as well as more beer festivals and exhibitions!

I think it definitely separates Yellow Arch from other venues, the fact that you have such a diverse crowd and people from all different walks of life.
Absolutely. It’s pretty mind-blowing actually, as no two events are the same but we always draw a lovely crowd and very rarely have any trouble. If you’re here to have a good time, you’ll be welcomed. We purposefully aim to attract different communities and scenes, which ultimately creates the wonderfully diverse crowds you’re used to seeing here.

You’ve got to have some favourite moments so far whilst working here?
Wow… where to begin! I’ll narrow it down to three. Definitely the 20th Birthday in October – I still can’t believe Macka B performed here! I have a feeling some people saw it as a bit of a joke booking with the cucumber song being big at the time, but being backstage and watching people’s reactions to how good he is live is something that will stay with me for a long time.
Secondly, hosting a Boiler Room session with Omar Souleyman and seeing him perform in a room filled with smoke and about four other people was very surreal to say the least.
Finally, our venue 2nd birthday in February. At the end of their set, NY Brass Band came through the crowd and started playing in the courtyard, so I ran to get the samba band who had performed earlier, shoved them all into the courtyard and they started having this mad jazzy-samba-brassy-drumming face-off – and everyone just lost their shit at how good it was!

Any dream bookings?
Not sure where to begin to be honest. There’s a band from the Sahara Desert called Tinariwen who are the epitome of Yellow Arch (check them out), so they’re definitely a dream booking! My personal hero, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, is high up on the list, along with many legendary Reggae artists who are getting on now. I’ve got one dream booking that might become a reality – but I can’t confirm just yet. I’d also say Mr Scruff, as he’s massively influenced me as a DJ and I feel the eclecticism in his DJ sets would match our vibe very well! On a side note, I hope to put together a Yellow Arch weekender in the future – full weekend festival vibes!

Can’t wait!
Neither can I! 2018 is already looking huge for us and we’re very excited about the acts we’ve got coming up in spring. We’re working with some of the city’s best promoters and taking the ‘Yellow Arch Presents’ to the next level. Keep your eye out for The Hempolics, The Turbans, The Resonators, The Baghdaddies, Afrocluster and a few legendary reggae acts coming up very soon. Hopefully see you in the dance very soon!

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