“FROM the outside, it looks just like a big estate pub at the top of a big hill,” says Simon Hughes. “I think a lot of artists and bands arrive here and wonder what they’ve agreed to play.
“But once they’re inside and meeting the staff and promoters it makes sense. It’s a special atmosphere, great sound, and there’s always an appreciative audience.”
Welcome, reader, to what is simultaneously one of Sheffield’s youngest and most historic boozers and music venues.
The Greystones, in Greystones Road, Greystones – previously the semi-legendary Highcliffe Hotel – is this month celebrating its first birthday under its new guise.
And to commemorate 12 months of famous faces, golden gigs and the odd touring act wondering if they’ve tipped up at the right place, photographer, promoter and regular patron Simon is releasing a book of incredible images of the year.
Here, are shots capturing everything from the legendary (Ian McLagan formerly of the Faces, for example) to the local (Richard Hawley); from the funny (Everly Pregnant Brothers) to the food poisoning...
“I think one of the most dramatic nights,” says Simon, 51, of Endcliffe Vale Road, Endcliffe, “was when LA band Dead Rock West turned up with lead singer Frank Lee Drennen suffering from a Chinese he’d eaten the night before. As soon as he arrived staff called an ambulance. He spent the night at the Northern General. The gig went ahead with his girlfriend Cindy Wasserman on solo vocals but you can see the stress in her face in the pictures. The rest of the tour was cancelled afterwards.”
More than such dramas, though, the book perhaps depicts the spirit of The Greystones.
“Of course I can’t capture the sounds or the heat of the place,” says Simon, a father-of-one. “But hopefully the pictures convey something of the sheer joy and intensity of the great nights.”
They do. From Duane Eddy to Simone Felice, the reader is put in the very front row of a memorable first year.
Not that The Greystones didn’t have something of a grand history before 2010. As The Highcliffe Hotel in the 1960s and 1970s, it had become a regular stop off for touring Amerciana, roots and folk acts, including Billy Connolly and Ralph McTell.
But, after more than 20 years of decline, it was taken over last year by Thornbridge Brewery. The Bakewell company refurbished the place (“including softening that estate pub exterior,” notes Simon) and reopened it as a community, music and arts pub on November 4 last year.
“They called me in to photograph the changes,” says Simon. “So often, you get these great pubs – like The Black Swan or The Grapes – and when they finally shut, there’s no record of what happened there.
“I think the brewery knew the pub was going to be a bit special and they wanted to make sure that was recorded.”
It is a recording well made.
Good Evening Sheffield: The Greystones Live by Simon Hughes is released through ALD Print and available in local book shops and online at www.boohoomusic.co.uk now. Framed pictures are also set to feature in an upcoming exhibition at Thornbridge’s second Sheffield pub DAda, in Trippet Lane, city centre.