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Sheffield History

The Leadmill

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THE LEADMILL

LOCATION

INFORMATION

"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.

Culture Club

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.

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

Madonna

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 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.

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.

PICTURES

LINKS

Official Leadmill Website - http://www.leadmill.co.uk

Amazing pictures of the Leadmill from the 80's - http://www.flickr.com/photos/noiseheatpower/tags/leadmill/

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In the 80s Peter Stringfellow organised several Mojo Club re-unions at the Leadmill. Cant remember the exact years, I think the first one was near Christmas at the time. They were very well attended (like crowded!) by ex members and many other interested parties. Don't think there had been as many old Mojo members in one room since it shut in 1967. It was good to see a lot of old faces again.

Besides the good old club sounds, there was always live music too. I remember Edwin Starr and his band doing a fantastic set once. Another time Peter got Geno Washington to reform a band and come to play for us.

One reunion had Peter auctioning off a small pink car (a Metropolitan?) he owned for charity! They were good nights and certainly recaptured something of the old times. Later reunions were held in London at the amazing Hippodrome in Leicester Square.

One photo is Peter on the Leadmill stage with Edwin Starr. Peter has just been presented with a framed Mojo award I made for him on behalf of the Mojo members. The design was also done as a limited edition T shirt which was on sale that night.

The other photo is Peter on stage with Geno Washington.

Peace and Love

Paul Norton

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That's fantastic - and the award is great looking too !

Do you produce/sell artwork like that commercially ?

If not you should consider it !

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I do artwork, exhibitions, paintings, information signs and arty related things when needed in my work as Interpretation Project Officer. The last mural I painted was a few years ago in our own house.

I do have one or two of those Mojo T shirts around but they wont fit me now! In more recent years I have done several other T shirt designs to sell to various historical re-enactment groups, like English civil war, Medieval and Napoleonic (Sharpes 95th rifles).

I should do some more really. Perhaps when I find where I put my spare time motivation, I will.

Paul Norton

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I'd be interested in one of those Mojo T-Shirts if there's any spare, Paul.

Also - does your art extend to interpretations of buildings/locations, etc? It might be good to get some good original Sheffield History T-Shirts?!

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Hi deejayone,

Yes I can draw buildings! So some original sheffield history T shirts are possible, time and energy permitting. BUT through the magic of technology and stuff you can get anything put onto a T shirt now. You dont neccesasrily have to draw a piece of artwork anymore. A design or image can be done digitally using text, drawings or photos or whatever, lifted from all sorts of sources or originals, do a design on computer, and then take it to one of the T shirt pirinting companies and thats it.

On another thread on this site, I saw the digital combination of an old building photo and the present view combined that someone had done for a start.

As an idea, use the 'Sheffield History' web site header which is a good style of text, combined with old views of Sheffield or a montage of groups/singers for instance, using a combination of colour and black and white. Or views of 1940s blitzed Sheffield with german bombers, fires and ARP rescuers done as a montage etc. Collections of old pubs or factories, anything is possible.

Paul Norton

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I have to say - your pictures are absolutely fantastic and we owe you one for taking them in the first place and capturing sheffield's past

Thanks for joining the site - great to have you on board !

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Good stuff !

If you have any memories or pictures feel free to share them - it's what makes the site so interesting !

Looks like you had a great time at the Leadmill - and your photographic skills are excellent too

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Hi NHP,

I also think your photos are good. You have caught the feel of the Leadmill in them. Brings back some memories there.

I checked the Sheaf market photos on your website too. Great, really great. The story with them is also good.

I really do think that 'Destroyed by Gods' needs to reach out further than your home though!!

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and the scene of one of the great Joe Strummers final gigs.

rock on Joe.

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Anyone remember when this was I might have been still at school so it must have been about 1979/80 - I don't think the Leadmill had opened properly - I think this was some sort of fundraising night- wouldn't have got far on £2.00. Was it really promoted by Factory? Supported by UK Decay.

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I'm pretty sure that was 1980 - I remember a lad at our school went... WITH HIS MUM AND DAD! We were in awe.

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I'm pretty sure that was 1980 - I remember a lad at our school went... WITH HIS MUM AND DAD! We were in awe.

I'm with you NHP, it was 1980. I was desperate to go to the gig but my mum & dad wouldn't let me. I was 14 at the time and had just bought UK Decay's single, For My Country, so I wanted to see them more than the Dead Kennedys.

I'm a little green with envy DunsbyOwl, mainly for having such laid back parents. Please say the gig was c**p.

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I'm with you NHP, it was 1980. I was desperate to go to the gig but my mum & dad wouldn't let me. I was 14 at the time and had just bought UK Decay's single, For My Country, so I wanted to see them more than the Dead Kennedys.

I'm a little green with envy DunsbyOwl, mainly for having such laid back parents. Please say the gig was c**p.

Thanks you NHP & JohnH I was 16 and and probably lied to my mum where I was going. I don't think she'd have understood anyway. I knew people who used to bring their "punk" clothes out in a carrier bag and get changed in the toilets.

I really went to see UK Decay (sorry they were great - (still have all their records) - I didn't like Dks - my brother in law made me a tape last year and apart from the odd memorable verse in the odd song they weren't very good. Strangely enough I was staying at a hotel in Norfolk a couple of years ago and the barman had a UK Decay tattoo - turned out he used to be their roadie and was at the gig in Sheffield!

As for parents going to a gig with you??? I remember some lads at junior school going to see Slade with their parents but then we were only about 10 - one lad at Secondary school suffered big time when it came out his dad woulldn't let he go to see John Williams ? (some sort of classical guitarist at the City Hall) on his own and insisted on going with him!

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As for parents going to a gig with you??? I remember some lads at junior school going to see Slade with their parents but then we were only about 10 - one lad at Secondary school suffered big time when it came out his dad woulldn't let he go to see John Williams ? (some sort of classical guitarist at the City Hall) on his own and insisted on going with him!

Well this lad's parents were the most credible, awe-inspiring mum and dad you could imagine. They went to gigs all the time. So it wasn't as weird as it sounds - we were 13 and they were probably only just into their thirties. It was more weird that our mate was allowed in there at 13 than that his parents were there. he he

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:rolleyes: B) Just been reading about the Leadmill, but can anyone remember it being called the Esquire (or is that going back too long!!!!!!!!!!) I used to go in the late 60s I think it was, and the place looked ready for demolition then,butI did think I was "cool"

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or is that going back too long!!!!!

When does the "Leadmill" date from please ? i.e. the building. Gosh, I've gone all historical again lol

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lol

When does the "Leadmill" date from please ? i.e. the building. Gosh, I've gone all historical again lol

Dont know when the building dates from but I think it was once a flour mill and the Esquire took part of it for the club.It was on three floors, reception, dance floor and coffee bar on the top. I heard it opened in 1962. Anyone know for sure?

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Bit late finding this (only just joined)

The Esquire opened sometime around '63 I think. It was a club for "beats" a move on from the beatnicks of earlier times. Later to become another "Mojo style" Mod haunt. 3 floors yes, with a mezanine above the dance floor with beer barrel tables and candles. Local artist, promoter and band manager Martin Bedford tells me that, when the Leadmill took over the place, they found it to be still more or less as it used to be when it shut down. Martin did all the screen printed publicity posters etc. in the early Leadmill days. He had an exhibition of the early artwork at Archipelligo a few years back.

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Best memories of Cheesy chips in the leadmilll cafe, and dinking too much. Remember seeing Marillion here during the 80's I think. and returning to the fold in the 90's for 80's night on a Thursday!!!

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