'It’s not Sheffield, without Leadmill': Why the iconic music venue is so important to Yorkshire

When the legendary Leadmill tweeted that the “landlord is evicting us and forcing us to close” on Thursday (March 31), musicians, artists and people nationwide had been fighting for it to stay open.

A petition had launched with more than a 1,500 signatures alongside rallying calls from those who have played at the Leadmill.

The landlord behind Sheffield’s most iconic music venue the Leadmill has since denied it will be shuttered, but will instead undergo a refurbishment.

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After a huge online backlash, Electric Group, which runs the venue, said that there was “never any question of us closing the Leadmill, despite all the social media chat.”

The LeadmillThe Leadmill
The Leadmill

Dominic Madden, CEO and Co-founder of Electric Group, tweeted: “The management may change but the song stays the same.”

Yet the outpouring of support for The Leadmill from musicians and fans around Yorkshire and beyond, has shown just what this music venue means to the region.

It’s rare that a live music venue stands the test of time. But since the 1980s the Leadmill has also transformed the careers of Pulp, Reverend and the Makers, Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys, to name but a few.

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Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs were just one of many who took to social media to save the venue which has been going for the past 42 years.

Author and Leadmill regular Neil Anderson.Author and Leadmill regular Neil Anderson.
Author and Leadmill regular Neil Anderson.

“We played @Leadmill in our early days and not only do we have very fond memories, it really helped us, too. It would be a huge loss not just for Sheffield and Yorkshire, but the whole UK music scene. #WeCantLoseLeadmill,” they tweeted.

Reverend and the Makers rallied their support asking “What’s the point”? of a Sheffield without this independent venue.

“A magical place-one of the great venues-just irreplaceable,” tweeted Manic Street Preachers.

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The Cribs tweeted: “The Leadmill is a wonderful and important venue. These are the sort of places that cities cannot afford to lose, the platform they give young musicians is invaluable.”

“Every time we've played there, it's been a belter. Sheffield would be poorer for its loss! #WeCantLoseLeadmill” added Maximo Park.

Here’s how Yorkshire came together #WecantloseLeadmill

Many Yorkshire residents have been sharing memories from the venue, from meeting future partners there to attending student nights and experiencing first gigs.

One of those who has grown up with the venue which featured in two of his Dirty Stop Out guide books is author and Leadmill regular Neil Anderson.

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“It’s been there for so many generations. If it goes its going to send a shockwave to everyone nationwide,” said Neil.

From the Dead Kennedys to the Arctic Monkeys, Neil like a lot of Sheffielders started attending the venue in its early days and has continued to do so over the years.

“The amount of quality acts that have perform down there is astronomical. I can’t imagine a Sheffield without a Leadmill.”

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He said the venue has managed to reinvent itself over the years to adapt to the changing political climate as well as serving the city and people nationwide, putting Sheffield on the map.

Neil said: “The backlash against this is incredible

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“Sheffield is a high quality producer of Rock n Roll and the Leadmill has always been an aspirational place to play for so many bands.

“Bands like Pulp you can trace their career there.”

Here’s why it’s so important to Sheffield and the live music scene:

While the Leadmill temporarily closed during the Pandemic it managed to reopen, unlike a lot of venues that were forced to close down.

“They suffered the absolute trauma of pandemic and the amount of soul searching they had to do - it’d be absolutely tragic to close now,” added Neil

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From hosting a popular Hotpants night inside Sheffield City Hall’s ballroom to becoming a popular student night for anyone who moved to Sheffield.

“Few music venues in the country have a legacy that’s lasted as long as the Leadmill, a lot of the venues are known to a specific musical genre but Leadmill has reinvented itself so many times,” said Neil who thanks the venue for being one of his first experiences of being a Dirty Stop Out .

“The amount of heritage and years its done. It appears in several of my books over the decades, few other venues have that life span.”

The History of the Leadmill, from the Miners’ Strikes to Madonna and becoming an ‘iconic brand’

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Leadmill opened in 1980 in a former flour mill as a community co-operative, hosting fundraisers for the Miners’ Strikes, explained Neil.

While it was very much a community base it still played host to some of the now most well-known bands and musicians.

It was instrumental in the rise of Sheffield bands including Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Heaven 17, and ABC.

“There was all sorts going on from the start, Then in the late 80s/90s is became more commercial with club nights when it became a buoyant after dark business,” said Neil.

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“Built it has always had a really niche with indie bands playing there.

“Then with the Manchester scene in the early 90s, it played host to the likes of Stone Roses and Oasis.”

Then it evolved again with the Dance Scene, with its RISE club nights in the 90s. And it also became a “strong community haunt, with students hooked on the Leadmill,” over the years explained Neil.

In the 1990s it was the Sheffield home of Gatecrasher and indie bands Franz Ferdinand and Arcade Fire played there.

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While it struggled in the 2000s, it still managed to stay open unlike Fabric nightclub in London.

“It’s absolutely incredible, it got through the Pandemic, we can’t lose it now,” said Neil who hopes that worst case scenario the “iconic brand,” will move venue.

Electric Group who owns and runs 1,500 capacity South London Venue Electric Brixton and 1,100 capacity venue Bristol SWX snd NX Newcastle, said that ‘more detailed information about Electric Group’s Leadmill Sheffield project to follow.’

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