An Audacious idea in Harwood Street

Setting music alight: Ben Hunter, Sam Lenthall, Luke Twyman and Dave Markham
Setting music alight: Ben Hunter, Sam Lenthall, Luke Twyman and Dave Markham
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It was a music project which started life in a Grimsby bedroom.

And, frankly, 10 years on, its surroundings aren’t much more glamorous – a run-down, converted flat in Harwood Street littered with piles of tapes, battered recording equipment and half-supped bottles of beer.

“But what we’ve achieved is beyond anything we could have imagined,” says Luke Twyman. “We don’t like to shout about it but I think we’ve done great things for Sheffield.”

Welcome, then, reader to the headquarters of The Audacious Art Experiment.

Here, a collective of some 30 city-based youngsters are reinventing the music industry wheel. From this base, just off Bramall Lane, they run their own record label, recording studio and rehearsal space. They fund CDs by bands they love; organise gigs for groups who wouldn’t come here otherwise; and give local acts – from punk rock to dance – a place to practise. Oh, and they do it in their spare time, as a co-operative.

Bands they’ve released work by include DIY giants Za! from Barcelona, and The Jesus Years, from Derbyshire.

Now, the collective – who all throw in £30 a month to run the base – is to celebrate the 10th anniversary since the concept was born in the Grimsby bedroom of Luke’s best friend Ben Lane. They will do so with a special all-day gig at CADS in Smithfield on June 1.

“When you grow up somewhere like Grimsby you have to make your own fun,” says Luke. “For us, that meant being in bands and being creative. Setting up TAAE was a way of meeting like-minded people and trying to help them out.”

That was May 2003. A year later Ben passed away, aged just 21, after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. But Luke kept the concept going in his memory.

He moved to Sheffield in 2005, set up the Harwood Street base in 2010, and has been pushing the concept ever since.

Last year alone, the group staged gigs by 96 band from across Europe in various Sheffield venues. They have just released their 20th CD.

“People come and go but there’s always a core membership to keep pushing things forward,” says Luke, a 30-year-old social worker of Sharrow Vale Road. “Why do it? Because I still have that urge to create things which I had in Grimsby, and because it’s great to be able to help others be creative too.”