The Leadmill has been a worshipped venue throughout generations of many families, mine is no different, my nan still talks about her days of dancing here! Throughout the years, it’s served a multitude of events, many many pints and an endless stream of laughs. I interviewed staff from The Leadmill to gather more background information about this historic place.
As history tells, The Leadmill first opened their doors in 1980. The initial plans for the venue were to be a community centre, which just so happened alongside the rise of Sheffield bands and the local music scene. From the very start the venue hosted live music events, including some early performances from bands such as The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Heaven 17, ABC and slightly later, PULP.
It is believed that The Leadmill’s success is down to a variety of things. During the early days, the venue was always hosting a range of cutting edge events, the very best in new music and experiences that you couldn’t find at any other place across the city. It grew and grew, word-of mouth did it’s trick and people from across the nation began visiting the venue. The staff here believe that the consistent level of top tier entertainment across various genres, alongside a friendly atmosphere is what keeps the customers coming back year after year.
Including event staff, The Leadmill hires a team of 70 people, including 14 full-time staff. There’s a great working dynamic between the bunch and it “feels like working with some of your closest friends” according to current staff. The dynamic of the group works so well due to the shared passion for not only the music, but also for putting on enjoyable events and experiences for the people of Sheffield.
I then asked the current staff of The Leadmill a few questions about their personal experiences, working for such an established venue.
“What is the best gig that you’ve seen at The Leadmill?”
Liam (Event Promoter) – Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes in the small room right at the start of their bands career. It was mayhem in all of the best ways.
Beth (Promotions Manager) – It is tough to chose between Headie One, Patawawa, Blossoms or IDLES.
Charlotte (Event Promoter) – Dead sons or Bombay. Amazing atmosphere at the Dead Sons gig. Loads of crowd surfing & pits filling up the dance floor, it was mad! Plus spotting Nick O’Malley in the crowd was a bonus! The return of Bombay was something special and seeing Jorja Smith in such an intimate setting was incredible.
Sam (Live Promoter) – This changes on a regular basis but at the moment, I’d say Bombay Bicycle Club.
What is the most rewarding part of working at The Leadmill?
Liam (Event Promoter) – Getting to work with friends, whilst talking about the very best music and comedy all day, then getting to see them live just downstairs from where we work on a day to day basis.
Beth (Promotions Manager) – The most rewarding part for me is working with the team we have, pulling things off at the very last minute & coming up with new ideas.
Charlotte (Event Promoter) – Seeing first hand the pure joy people get from our events, is one of the most rewarding parts for me. Standing to one side at a club night and watching the crowd sing and dance to their fave songs, have such a good time with their mates and just buzz off the atmosphere that you’ve helped create, really is the best feeling. I’ve had some unreal nights out in the past – at Leadmill and elsewhere, so being responsible for creating unforgettable memories, similar to those I’ve had, but for those that come to our venue, is amazing!
Sam (Live Promoter) – One of the great things is having an idea for a club night or an event and being able to bring that idea to reality, then seeing people take to it and enjoy it. Being able to look out on a packed room of people having the time of their life, and knowing that it all started with an idea in your head.
Which is your favourite Leadmill Night?
Liam (Event Promoter) – WRONG CROWD is my favourite club night at The Leadmill, although SONIC Saturday would be a close second.
Beth (Promotions Manager) – The launch of Club Tropicana was my favourite stand out club night for sure.
Sam (Live Promoter) – Club Tropicana is special to me, because it was something that we didn’t expect to get so big, and it’s just so much fun. But I’m also a huge fan of our 2009 & 2010 nights, and what will become our 2011 nights, they’re just full of nostalgia and it’s great to hear songs you loved as a teenager.
Charlotte (Event Promoter) – The continued hype and loyalty for Club Tropicana has been immense and to be there for its debut is a real classic. I do love our club specials though! It gives us the chance to reach different audiences and have fun promoting alternative themes. I really enjoyed ‘Dreams’ the Fleetwood Mac night we did. The atmosphere was special throughout and it was great to see such diversity amongst our customers, all of which came together to celebrate the best of 70s rock music!
The staff at The Leadmill are incredibly dedicated, hard-working individuals that team together for the same purpose; they keep the fire burning and the venue adored. Behind-the-scenes, the staff have worked hard to keep this place above ground. The lockdown’s have been incredibly difficult for this industry and different avenues have been explored in acknowledgement of this.
For The Leadmill, the struggles have come in stages. Firstly, they had to regretfully sell off various items of venue memorabilia, including a custom guitar that was made from pieces of the old Leadmill dance floor, signed by Arctic Monkeys. Further to that, they then teamed up with them and Music Venue Trust to raffle off one of Alex Turner’s guitars which he played at the venue during the early days of the band. This raised over £120,000, which staff were amazed by and incredibly grateful for! Staff have also run several live streams in which people have had the opportunity to donate directly to the venue, or purchase a piece of merchandise from the store whilst enjoying some Leadmill vibes in the safety of their own homes.
The best way that people can help is simply to check out the website and pick up a piece of merchandise, or a ticket for a show when the pandemic is finally over. They’ve really upped the quality and worked on some great designs with some of their favourite artists for the most recent merchandise run, which gives people the chance to help out whilst getting something that they enjoy in return.
The Leadmill is one of the most sought after venues in Sheffield, and further afield. But why is it that people of ages love this venue so much? Simply, alongside the very best entertainment for a venue of their size, there is a vibe unlike anywhere else in Sheffield. There’s always a friendly atmosphere and the customers form a community who are proud to share their love for The Leadmill.
The wide range of things that we do for a venue of our size is what makes The Leadmill stand out from other places. The staff are always looking to push boundaries and think outside the box with the type of events that they can put on, whilst consistently providing a bit of something for everybody. They offer club nights, stand up comedy events, drag events, live theatre performances, quizzes, educational talks, workshops, training & office facilities. Everybody is welcome here and as mentioned, visitors often come together to form a friendly community, united by a mutual respect and love for a good time.
Throughout the past forty years, many famous faces have walked through those well-known doors. Here are just a few notable comments:
Franz Ferdinand once told the Arcade Fire that playing the Leadmill was seen as a “rite of passage”, which is again a huge honour, Serj from Kasabian gave us a special shout out whilst receiving an NME award in 2018, Nicky Wire heralded the venue as his favourite on their website and in 1992, Ringo Starr of The Beatles contacted the venue to sing it’s praises – “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”.
Prince Charles enjoyed his visit to the venue back in 1988, describing The Leadmill as “a building now well-restored” continuing to state “It houses a theatre, live music venue, educational and training centre, not to mention a restaurant, bar, nightclub, and, they say, it makes a profit!”. We like to think that he’d be even more amazed if he could see what the staff have done with the place in 2021.
Following this, there are magnitudes of acts that still recall the time that they played at The Leadmill and how they opt to play here when they could be filling much larger venues instead. The venue often get Tweets from acts on a regular basis which is a really lovely thing to see.
As previously mentioned, the hospitality industry has been hit bard during the struggles of this pandemic and I wanted to get the staff’s perspective from The Leadmill. Here is what they said:
“It’s been tough, particularly when places like ourselves have put so many procedures in place to make sure that customers stay safe and socially distanced. We feel that you’d come into much closer quarters with people in unessential retail stores, which never had anywhere near as strict rules put upon them as hospitality venues. Some of the curfews have made little sense to us and explanations have come in a very last minute nature.
This is not to say that it has all been bad. We have been fortunate enough to receive funding which has been hugely helpful for ourselves, but much more can be done to support the smaller and lesser known venues which are also deserving of support.”
For now, we have to just remain optimistic about the times that we will once again share together in the future. “One hand firmly grasped around a nice cold drink, the other up in the air, surrounded by friends, dancing and listening to our favourite tunes!”
The lasting comment from this interview that the staff want to express is that “It shouldn’t be too long now. We have missed you all, can’t wait to see you again and we promise we’ll make the long wait worth it when we’re back!”
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