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Web Express Guide Sheffield Edition No. 37 Jan 2012
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Leadmill

"The opening of The Leadmill in 1980 was a response to the lack of cultural facilities in Sheffield and was set against the backdrop of a political and economic environment characterised by the beginning of Thatcherism" Phew!!!!!!!! very 1980s and I just thought we were ready to rock! And so The Leadmill was born. In the Autumn of 1980 it opened it’s doors to an unsuspecting public.


Leadmill
6-7 Leadmill Rd
Sheffield
South Yorkshire
S1 4SE

Telephone 0114 2212828
* The Leadmill
* Nightclub
* Concerts
* Gigs
* Bands
* Live Music

If you weren’t around in 1980, let me tell you that the social climate in Sheffield was as bleak as a Boney M single.


Decimation of the mainstay industry - the steelworks - coupled with soaring youth unemployment, gave rise to slogans such as no future no hope for the majority of youngsters. An unlikely spark of hope was struck in a derelict flour mill in a run down part of the city (part of the building housed the legendary Esquire club, where during the Sixties The Who, Jimi Hendrix the Small Faces and others played on a stage made from 2 grand pianos with their legs sawn off). A ragbag of volunteers, students, artists and unemployed, many insane but likeable, came together with a vision of setting up a centre for the arts and music for people like themselves who had nowhere to go. The official line was....
 
 "The opening of The Leadmill in 1980 was a response to the lack of cultural facilities in Sheffield and was set against the backdrop of a political and economic environment characterised by the beginning of Thatcherism"
Phew!!!!!!!! very 1980s and I just thought we were ready to rock! And so The Leadmill was born. In the Autumn of 1980 it opened it’s doors to an unsuspecting public.

Hundreds of bands who’ve ended up huge started life at The Leadmill which happily took advantage of the 3-4 year period in the early 1980s when Sheffield was the happening city.
 
 
1980 - 1985

The Leadmill begins as a performing arts venue encompassing Jazz, Pop bands, Theatre, Education Workshops, Club Nights and Artiste Workshop spaces.

 

Bands who cut their teeth in these early years included, Cabaret Voltaire, Killing Joke, The Fall, Pulp (the first of many visits) Nico from the Velvet Underground, Everything But The Girl, Marc Almond who eccentrically insisted on a pound of orange smarties for his rider, JoBoxers, UK Subs, Prefab Sprout, Big Audio Dynamite, New Order and The Pogues.
 
The venue was closed temporarily whilst improvements were made in order to secure further licences. It reopened triumphantly in September 1982, Culture Club  playing - for a ticket price of 50p- the week they hit No1 with "Do you really want to Hurt Me?"

Martin Fry of ABC was moved to write of The Leadmill: "A heady cocktail of sweat, leather sound and fury, beer and vodka and limes - unique and of course the occasional blocked toilets (hence the unisex queue for the gents) Did Culture Club really turn up?" - too right they did mate!

"Combining the thrift and intimacy of a working men's club with the leisure processor a Hacienda, Sheffield's Leadmill could become an important landmark in pop culture." NME 9/10/1982 -........We always knew they had foresight.


Early unique glimpses of the club confirm this.
 
 
The venue was closed temporarily whilst improvements were made in order to secure further licences.
  
 
 Pulps' Jarvis Cocker wrote and directed The Leadmills' 1982 Christmas panto for kids starring 50 musicians from a dozen local bands to be staged on New Years Eve and exclaimed "We wanted to see 1982 out in style and make a lot of cool people from pop groups look stupid. I think it's a first for the Steel City, and it's going to be a lot of fun"

Who's that girl?? In 1983 The Leadmill asked the same question and turned down one of the biggest stars of the age - Madonna - Never Mind you can't win 'em all and we did manage to get Ipso Factor for the date for £25 quid
 
 
Also during 1983 the legendary 60/70s club night "The Beat Club" was launched. Peter Stringfellow was a regular bopper at the early events. It still to this day, remains the longest running club night in Sheffield.

Fast forward to 1984 - Hull Chart heroes queue to get into their own gig "because it seemed more democratic" came the modest retort, unfortunately they are accidentally refused entry by the door staff!

Leadmill 4 Housemartins 0

Simply Red was another highlight in 1985, just as "Moneys too tight to Mention" was breaking Mick Hucknell jumped from the stage and sung from the middle of the dance floor whilst the audience danced around him. Top Gig!
 
1986 - 1990

1986 onwards saw both the economy and The Leadmill pick up pace. The venue expanded both it's facilities and programme to appeal to more and more of the people of Sheffield and surrounding areas.
 
 Bands playing during this period is a truly impressive list ; Pulp played twice in '86 for £2.00, the admission price rising to a staggering £2.50, when they played in '89, Jonathan Richman Tom Robinson. Happy Mondays make their first visit supporting The Shamen also £2.50! Julian Cope, Primal Scream.

Jools Holland also made his inaugural visit. A regular visitor in the 80s & 90s Jools loved The Leadmills informal setting greeting the audience with casual references such as "You didn't rehearse to come here tonight, neither did we" an indication of the impromptu brilliance that followed.
 
 
In 1988 a new club night was launched "The Steamer" with resident DJ Graeme Park. The Steamer quickly became one of the pioneering nights of the new breaking "Acid House" movement mixing sounds and laying down the sounds that was to dominate the scene up to the present day.-Soul to Soul amongst others play here and get paid £80 for the privilege. After swapping our event with The Hacienda one Wednesday -"The Steamer" for The Haciendas' "Hot" (with Mike Pickering), "our Graeme" bowls over The Hacienda crowd and a beautiful friendship begins


The Steamer paved the way for it's eventual successor, the unique and ground breaking House night "Rise", was born in 1993 and national recognition was quickly to follow.
  
 
Steven Daldry, Director of the current smash hit "Billy Elliot" also did a stint here as part of the hilarious satirical revue - The Friday Show. 
But staying with the 80s, we couldn't keep the celebs out! You could catch Charlene from Texas for a paltry £3.00, Patsy Kensit shuffling on the dance floor supporting her then boyfriend Dan Donovan and his band Big Audio Dynamite. 
 
 
 
"I particularly enjoyed my visit to The Leadmill" said one HRH Prince Charles on his Royal Visit in 1988 as part of his duties for Business in the Community - Midge Ure of Ultravox played here during the evening and a royal duet of "Vienna" was actually on the cards until HRH withdrew after seeing the Rider.
 
Which brings us to another Rider story. Sean Ryder of The Happy Mondays brought his band to play at the venue for a second time in Oct 1988.

Slight technical problems caused a delay to the bands soundcheck who in the meantime asked for their alcoholic rider and promptly retired to their dressing room. Big mistake.. Bands only get their rider after they've finished playing, You know that!

Half an hour before they were due to go on, the band, by now very "tired and emotional" decided "we re going home" and proceeded to do just that, leaving the duty manager well and truly gobsmacked and a club full of unsuspecting fans not knowing that the nearest they'd get to the band that night was dancing to their vinyl at the club night that followed.

Furious letters rushed back and forth, snarls and grimaces eschewed ...........the dust settled......... and in 1994 Sean returned with his new band Black Grape and announced from the stage" We fell out with this place once but we're all mates again now" before going on to play a storming set where the walls in the place literally did sweat. - We love you Sean! top bloke!
 
 
Gothic Horrors! Both Jane's Addiction and Faith No More appear around this time scaring and delighting the audience simultaneously.


1989 saw Jesus Jones, Primal Scream and The Las appear to help raise money for the Hillsborough Disaster Benefit Fund. Inspiral Carpets returned to a proper billing - previously The Leadmill had mistakenly called them "Spiral Staircase" OOPs!

The infamous toilets aforementioned by Martin Fry finally went in 1989 together with a major refurbishment that saw bigger and better toilets (ultimately destined for great things, read on) bigger venue, an extra bar and general all round improvement.

In 1989 The Leadmill wins BBC "In the City" award The Leadmill sweeps to success in a competition which aimed to discover Britain's' liveliest towns and cities where people are doing the most to put the heart back into their communities. The awards were presented on a live show screened by the BBC and watched by viewers all over Britain.
 
 
1990 - 1995

Its 1990 and The Leadmill celebrates its' 10th birthday and the 90s see in a new generation of bands set to play at The Leadmill.
 
 Ocean Colour Scene, Manic Street Preachers, EMF, Cast, Oasis, The Verve, Massive Attack, Elastica, Jamiroquai, Skunk Anansie, Suede, Supergrass, Reef, Baby Bird, Roger Taylor (Queen), David Icke, are you sure about this one? No, but you get the general picture...... The venue was now regularly attracting Premier League Artistes and regularly won awards in the NME and Melody Best Live Venue Poll.
 
 
The Manics played in 1991 and Nicky Wire cited The Leadmill on their website as their favourite Live Venue - Aww thanks guys- "Catch em while you still can get in" teased the press release before their performance. "The Leadmill was packed to the rafters and buzzing with teenage anticipation" opened a breathless review - "We just wanna make a classic double album and then split up. to sell millions of records and then throw it all away, that would be the ultimate" Well they've sold millions of records .................. Ho Hum   Bizzarley in 1992 The Leadmill went very un Rock and Roll by picking up awards for the best toilet facilities in Britain. The toilets were "flushed with success" (Groan) after being shortlisted for the regions "Loo of the Year". Along with Sheffield Town Hall, The Leadmill polished off over 1300 opponents nation-wide to clean up a place amongst 12 finalists for the North's Superloo.

 
A fan of the band The Stereophonics - Steve Denton - Emailed us to tell us of his serious dash across the Pennines to catch the bands appearance at The Leadmill.
Apparently after playing at "Manics on the Streets of Manchester" (very droll) he went backstage and managed to get them to agree to delay their evening Leadmill show in order to give them time to drive their economically challenged motor over to Sheffield, which he assures us they did Top Band! 

Blast from the past Bands that coincidentally began with the letter B during this era included Bjorn Again, Bay City Rollers and The Bootleg Beatles.

The Bay City Rollers performed in December 1991 to a much smaller audience than their last Sheffield gig. Back in 1973 teenage screaming girls caused pandemonium by tearing through barriers with general mass hysteria and faintings that surrounded their national sell out tour. This time at the Leadmill it was more low key with a somewhat smaller audience but still plenty of wrinkles and crows feet. One last time - "We Love The Rollers!!!!!!!"
 
 
A certain drummer from the biggest band ever, similar to the Bootlegs, wrote to us in 1992 to tell The Leadmill he loves us yeah! yeah! yeah! 
 Mr Ringo Starr contacted the club to thank us for our support of live music. Ringo wrote; "It's good to know that their are some club owners willing to help young musicians - a gig in the band is worth two in a bush" Wow! Far out!

 
Gary Numan confessed he was scared of The Leadmill audience in '91. He confessed he was "fearful of his forthcoming Leadmill gig" Surely we can't be that bad Gaz?

1992 was a vintage year, EMF, Pulp (again) Dubliners 30th Anniversary tour, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Bad Manners, Suede, Jools Holland played again- "All back to mine! came the cry from Jools at the end of the gig, whereby various members of Leadmill Staff including glass collectors, bar staff, sound Engineers etc. promptly retired to the nearby hotel to smoke, drink, take turns on the piano and be raucously entertained by the man himself until 4 in the morning - Jools. Once again we salute you!

In June The Verve play their First gig after reforming and support Spiritulised - "they went down well in front of an initially curious crowd" ran the tentative review.

Gil Scott-Heron with his eclectic mix of jazz, soul, funk and blues has been a constant favourite at The Leadmill.
 
However the gig in '92 nearly didn't happen as a recalled conversation serves to illustrate; "Where's Gil?" asked the stage manager 5 minutes before he was due to start "Dunno?!" replied the rest of the band ..Frantic searches commenced until finally a roadie was dispatched to the pub on the end of the road in a seemlessly vain hope. But Wow! There he was, Gil Scott-Heron, propping up the bar in the Norfolk Arms having a pint! Gil!!!!!! the roadie screamed "Hey man, what's the problem?" came the nonchalant reply .......... certainly not the ensuing gig which brings rave reviews such as "He transfixed the audience with mind blowing jams slipping from on song to another with ease" Hey, The mans got bottle.
 
 
In what was billed as the music industry's Olympic Games, The Leadmill was secured as the pre-eminent venue at "Sheffield Sound City 1993". The Press Launch held at the Leadmill by Mark Goodyear boasted "a potential audience of 300 million across Europe will be able to tune into the steel city when top Radio 1 DJs will present a series' of live concerts from local stages" Bands that play The Leadmill include Jamaroquai, Stereo MCs, Pulp(again) St Etienne, Lemonheads and Cornershop.
  To celebrate the Licensing Magistrates backed the city's first ever dusk till dawn drinking session. Last orders called at 6am! 
 
Hot on the heels of all of this Chrissie Hynde brings The Pretenders to the venue for a low key warm up gig.

As it turned out this next lot were the top band of the 90s and just as they were breaking - Oasis play here in '94 - see original pictures of Liam and Noel larging it on The Leadmill stage .. before Patsy, Meg, sibling rivalry, kids and walkouts.

In '95 Paul Weller, by now the venerated Modfather, stopped off in the middle of plotting his comeback for world domination in what was in my humble opinion - if I'm allowed to get personal for one moment - the gig at The Leadmill.
 
 
At the end of The Beautiful South's World Tour they decided to have their glitzy after show party here.

An old friend was asked to come along who by now was trying his hand at DJing and played his housey funky set in the small bar. The (Fat) boy (Slim) done good!
 
 
A clutch of legendary Soul stars Edwin Starr, Womack & Womack, Rose Royce and The Real Thing appear at the long running Thursday night Beat Club (still a fond memory in many peoples hearts ... "I met my husband there" Hey, Don't blame us!) 
 
In 1995, hilarious antics surrounded the comedy duo Reeves & Mortimer. I happened to be the duty manager on the night that they made an unexpected and impromptu appearance at Our Wednesday Club night Planet Earth. After performing at the nearby City Hall they arrived at the club around midnight where a VIP table and complimentary drinks were laid on. After appearing initially tired and subdued they polished off the complimentary rider and proceeded to chase giggling and amazed girls round the dance floor in their own inimitable style to their own wacky tune "Dizzy". Unbelievable! You had to be there really........ Other comedy acts that have actually performed here include Lee Evans & Harry Hill. 
 
1996 - 2000

And so towards the millennium and this period sees appearances by Morcheeba, Sneaker Pimps, Mansun & Travis (together on same bill) Catatonia, Stereophonics, The Verve(again) Moby, Joe Stummer, Baby Bird, Roni Size.
 
    
 
In 1997 a low budget, as yet unknown movie was released and saw it's premiere showing aptly in Sheffield. Yes it was "The Full Monty" ! and The Leadmill was chosen for the cast and production teams' after show party.  Most of the cast attended with a smattering of Coronation Street stars and a real life hired Steel Works Stripper. This was well before the film went into orbit and no doubt bigger and better premieres were held in London but once again, remember where you saw it first!
 
 
 
You don't believe we've had a Spice Girl? Correct! We've had them all.

The whole gang Posh, Baby and Scary complete with ace Soccer Legend Beck's all turned up to show support for Mel Cs' first ever solo gig.
They viewed the whole scene from the lofty position of The Leadmill DJ box.
 
  
 
The whole gang left the club obviously like most people after having had a great time. 
 
Notable spokenword tours include Julian Cope (Stone Circles) Howard Marks (Live love & weed).
In November 1999 The SugarHill Gang who single-handedly kick started the whole Hip-Hop revolution with their song "Rappers Delight" played a totally spine tingling set backed with none other than the great Grandmaster Melle Mel Top!
 
 
We opened the year with a marathon "Leadmillennium" celebration and continued with appearances by a host of top acts such as Moby, Wannadies, Doves, Asian Dub Foundation, Toploader, Elastica, Muse, Coldplay (twice), Bentley Rhythm Ace, Kirsty Macoll 
 
Over the years many a celebrity lookalike have appeared, much to the sometimes incredulous belief of the audience, but here's one girl who obviously thought she was getting the bona-fide royal-princely treatment!   
 
It's been a long and winding road and obviously a hopeless task to try and fit this all in. You've all probably got your own favourite moments at the club which may or may not involve one of the bands mentioned but the vast majority of visits over the years have been to our many varied and successful club nights, we guess between five and six million over the last 20 years, so here goes, do you remember your best time at....... (the obvious ones first) Beat Club, Planet Earth, Royale, Fab, Shag, Hell, Stepon, Rise, The Steamer, Destroy, Hot Pants, Vootaroonie, DCM, Joyrider, Deep, Famous Door, Vogue Minogue, The Kitchen, La Videotech, Wilde Club, Twilight Zone, Mugwump, Sweat/Sweet/Sweat2, Mugwump, Bliss, Slacker, The Friday Show.

Email us with your memories anecdotes and experiences Freebies will be awarded for the most entertaining.
Yes we know this is all harking back but do allow us a moment of indulgence, it is our birthday after all. At the present time The Leadmill's programme is as packed as ever. The University of Shag kicks off the week educating the city's students in the art of clubbing and our new House and Dance night, Hell on a Tuesday provides clubbers with devilish Djs without draining the overdraft. Planet Earth continues its top performance to the lovers of 80s kitsch whilst Thursdays FAB lives up to its name starting the weekend off early with the cream of the last 3 decades. Make the most of your free time starting with Royale on Fridays with its mix of cool pop tunes and catch all the top live acts every Saturday. Step On, "the best Indie night in the World...ever" rounds off the week in style, leaving you a days rest so you can do it all again...
 Its thankyou time! As you may guess there are many members of ex staff who've contributed to The Leadmills' success story of the years and we're going to have a go at naming some of them. If we've left you out many apologies There are not many of the originals left and our memories are not in-exhaustable. So for your delight here are some of the movers and shakers........

 
The first 20 years have certainly been a roller coaster. Its' been a long haul - sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exasperating but it's never been dull.

The Leadmill can now face the 21st Century with just a much optimism (but a lot more confidence) than it did in 1980.

And now my boy, you're a man!

And finally thankyou to the audience over the years.
We hope The Leadmill has brought you many a fond memory. Here's our one of our most abiding memories of you:
 
 
Well the millennium came and went and there was none of the predictable meltdown, certainly not in musical terms.
This is the 21st Century.

But before we herald the new era, a slight backward look.

In the summer of 2001 the original Leadmill was archaeologically discovered across the road underneath the old Bus Garage – remnants of Pulps first ever gig were allegedly found scattered around.

Built in 1759 it really was a Lead-Mill producing pigment for paint and pottery. Powered by water it carried out lead refining. It was demolished in the early part of the 20th century but it gave its name to the surrounding roads. Eat your heart out Tony Robinson.
But lets get back to the music.

Competition increased with more venues and late night licences appearing in Sheffield than ever before.

The Leadmill responded by opening 6 nights a week – cheapest drinks in town- sorry ‘bout that, force of habit, and hosting more live gigs than the heyday of the mid 80s.
 
 

 Notable gigs included ..

The face that launched a 1000 commercials – Moby - was the first big one of the new millennium appearing in February 2000.

Coldplay supported Muse (!) in early 2000 and then came back triumphant to headline later in the year.

Back to the Future of Rock n Roll, The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Coral all gave us an early glimpse, and generally 6 months before anyone else..
 
Occasionally just occasionally The Leadmills’ foresight coincides with that of the general music industry and this occurred when both acknowledge the supreme talent of Ms Dynamite. Her not so secret gig was played here just as she was being nominated for every award conceivable.

Speaking of awards we sneaked into Kerrangs top 10 live music venues – probably due to the appearance of nu rock acts such as Bowling for Soup, 100 Reasons, and Spunge.


Proving that old punks never die and that you can’t kill a spirit, The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, Stranglers and The Buzzcocks all played to a packed venue. Which brings me to two live appearances by the late great Joe Strummer who appeared with his Mescalaroes, first in 2000 and secondly his penultimate ever gig on 21st November 2002. Mixing new material with raucous Clash anthems the man clearly meant it right to the end.
God bless you Joe Strummer you showed us all the way mate ……..
 
 
 
Other notable gigs during this period include Doves, Top Loader, Kirsty Macoll, Dandy Warhols, The Charlatans, Sheffield’s own ABC, Groove Armada, The Hives, Paul Heaton, The Polyphonic Spree, John Squire and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

On the club side we went retro with Disco Heaven on a Tuesday and the long running Planet Earth metamorphosed into The Zoo.
 
 
As you are reading this history section you are hopefully one of our customers, current or past.
If you feel that I have left out any notable highlights from the last 20 years please contact me and tell me what they are and why they should be included.
 
 
 


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