Sheffield writer Neil Anderson looks back at city's legendary Limit music venue

Despite being shut nearly 30 years, The Limit is still regularly hailed as one of Sheffield’s most famous and legendary clubs.

By Neil Anderson
Monday, 12th October 2020, 12:00 pm

My new book is set to tell the story of the city’s Limit venue which was originally launched on the bottom of West Street in 1978.

The book, the 10th anniversary copy of Take It To The Limit, is already receiving five-star reviews in the national press.

The subterranean club originally provided a safe haven for the burgeoning punk movement that was already into its second year.

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The Human League’s Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall in the Limit, pictured by Alison Drummond

Sheffield’s reaction to the new scene that counted the Sex Pistols and The Clash among its main flag-bearers had hardly been welcoming.

Anthony Cronshaw remembers: “There was a lot of hostility towards punk in the city – right from the day it arrived.

“Before the Limit there was really only the Wapentake to go to.”

The Limit was at the forefront of a group of regional independent venues that opened in northern England around the same time and went on to help shape the UK music scene in the eighties.

An early flyer for The Limit in Sheffield

Other venues included the Warehouse in Leeds, Eric’s in Liverpool and the Hacienda in Manchester.

They were all essential stop-off points for artists on their ascendancy and each had their own particular traits.

If cash was king, it’s arguable that the Limit won hands down.

It was hugely successful and even went on to bankroll the transformation of the then derelict Lyceum Theatre into a music venue in the early 80s.

The Limit doorway on a drab-looking West Street

It thrived in a world without Facebook, mobile phones and instant messaging.

The early Limit promotion machine was a world of DIY handbills, fly-posting and newspaper adverts.

The Limit survived and thrived through times of major political and social unrest that proved to be the undoing of many venues.

It saw off the Winter of Discontent in 1978-1979, the Miners’ Strike of 1984 and the recession of the 1980s.

Annie Lennox performs at the Limit with the Tourists. Picture: James Melik

You can actually trace the roots of the Limit back to the mid-sixties and the King Mojo – the venue unveiled by Peter and Geoff Stringfellow in 1964.

Future Limit operators George Webster and Kevan Johnson both yearned for the return of a similar venue.

The first half of the seventies had seen big changes in the after-dark world. It was a time of glitz, glamour and cabaret.

King Mojo couldn’t have been more different.

It was an alcohol-free teenage club held in a former dance hall in the suburbs of the city.

It built its reputation from the ground up and booked acts that went on to major national and international fame.

The Specials at the Limit, pictured by James Melik

Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Ike and Tina Turner – they all made the pilgrimage to 555 Pitsmoor Road.

Its city centre rival, the Esquire, was doing similar things in the city centre.

It’s fair to say the Limit took the best of both venues – added alcohol and, to coin a phrase they nicked from The Eagles, took things ‘to the limit’.

The Limit’s early months cemented its status as a cutting-edge live music venue with Siouxsie and the Banshees playing the opening week, the B-52s making their UK debut at the club and everyone from The Specials to The Undertones performing seminal shows.

But the Limit’s influence was probably strongest felt by the local acts it helped nurture and the electro-scene that exploded out of the city in the early 1980s.

Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, Vice Versa (later to become ABC), Def Leppard, Artery and others all played important shows at the venue.

Within a couple of years of opening the Limit was turning its focus to club nights; it went on to become a regional goth-epic-centre and was pioneering the rave scene when it shut for the last time.

The book is full of rare photos, memories and more.

Despite being shut nearly 30 years, its legacy continues to grow.

This collector's edition of Take It To The Limit comes with an exclusive cover.

Each one is personally signed by the author and individually numbered and can be pre-ordered now at £19.95. from www.dirtystopouts.com

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A young Def Leppard perform at Sheffield’s Top Rank – they were Limit regulars. Picture: James Melik
An advert for The Limit in Sheffield