'Excitement and hope' as Sheffield's Leadmill nightclub prepares to return after longest furlough
Dozens of staff at a legendary Sheffield nightclub are preparing to return to work after the country’s longest lockdown.
The Leadmill team are a sociable bunch who enjoy working with up to 1,100 revellers every night - and 14 months stuck at home has been especially hard, according to Rose Wilcox head of programming.
A small group came in to run a socially-distanced bar when rules eased on Monday.
But all eyes are on June 21 when remaining restrictions are due to be lifted and all 75 – including engineers, security and ticketing staff – come back.
It will also mark the survival of a multi-million pound business and important cultural cornerstone in Sheffield.
Rose, who has worked at the venue for 12 years, said: “When your whole job is to be sociable and you’re used to being in a nightclub with a thousand people several times a week - to go from that to nothing is hard. That’s been the biggest struggle. The staff make The Leadmill, they love the business, it’s a passion.
“The worst time was during the first lockdown but before the furlough scheme came in.
“We thought it was going to be two weeks but it became apparent very quickly it would be longer, because the whole point of the industry is for people to mix and mingle.
“We were worried that an iconic Sheffield institution could shut its doors.
“Now we’re getting ready to fully reopen and there’s a sense of excitement and hope.”
The Leadmill’s return will begin with opening parties and then, from September, a hectic schedule of daily events, in a bid to catch up on a backlog of gigs postponed during the pandemic.
When fully up and running, the venue on Leadmill Road hosts 400 events a year – bands, comedy, drag and club nights, workshops and talks – and welcomes 100,000 people.
It ran a few weeks of socially distanced activities in September and October, between lockdowns, and an outdoor bar for three weeks in April this year after the country moved to Stage 2.
But the rest of the time, until this week, it has been shut - and people have missed it.
In August, Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner raffled a guitar which raised £128,544 to support music venues including The Leadmill.