Rebels nightclub was a place where friendships were made for life

Rebels was one of the most popular rock clubs in the north of England in the 1980s and 1990s. But it might never have happened if the final Sheffield venture of one of the city’s most famous entrepreneurs had worked out.

By Neil Anderson
Saturday, 12th September 2020, 8:54 am
See anyone you recognise on this photo from Rebels? Photo by Mandy Jeffcock.
See anyone you recognise on this photo from Rebels? Photo by Mandy Jeffcock.

Few people realise Peter Stringfellow had more than a little hand in the future launch of the region’s undisputed king of rock clubs.

It was he that opened the Penthouse in 1969 in the space destined became Rebels years later.

His love affair with the venue sited many floors above Dixon Lane didn’t last long. If it had, well, there might have never been a rock club at all.

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Revellers having fun at Rebels nightclub.

Peter, and his brother Geoff, had already achieved massive success in Sheffield in the years preceding the Penthouse opening.

Their Burngreave-based King Mojo teenage club attracted stars spanning Jimi Hendix to Ike and Tina Turner. Their performances at the venue were some of their very earliest gigs on record. Not only that, Peter Stringfellow had already been a presenter on the iconic Ready Steady Go! TV show and been a comperé for the Beatles.The Penthouse was his first venue with an alcohol licence and it didn’t end well.

Peter Stringfellow ended up selling the Penthouse business within months of opening and moved his business interests to Leeds.

It was, in his eyes, a disaster. Fighting became a consistent problem.Rebels was the brainchild of former Limit bouncer Steve Baxendale.

King Mojo Club was Peter Stringfellow's biggest success story in Sheffield.

He said: “On opening night I thought no one had come. I came down the street and only saw four people stood outside. I was gutted.

“But then I opened bottom doors and over 1,000 people were on the stairs - all seven flights of ‘em.”

Rebels provided a dedicated nightclub for the rockers after they’d finished at the likes of the Wapentake.

Bob Maltby spun the discs in the early days. Ken Hall, best known for his years at the Wapentake, was also on the decks.

Former Rebels DJs Bob Maltby (left), Lez Wright (middle, back) and the Bailey Brothers in more recent years.

The opening of Rebels was perfectly timed as the rock scene exploded in the mid-1980s with the rise of spandex-charged hair metal following the rise of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal genre a few years earlier.

Rebels was a true Sheffield institution. It was a blur of endless flights of stairs, Red Stripe, bleached hair and rock ‘n’roll.

DJ Lez Wright took over the disc spinning duties in later years – his roots can be traced right back to the Buccaneer – with Rebels becoming one of the most popular rock clubs in the whole country towards the end of the 1980s.Rebels regular Phil Staniland remembers: “After ascending up the multi flighted and very steep staircase you entered the club on the top floor and paid through some kind of hole in the wall. Then you ventured into a dark black-walled room with music blasting out even beyond volume 11! It was a great club and not
 just popular with rockers. You’d always see a group of ‘stray’ townies or a bunch of hen party girls who at that stage in the night fancied something a little different to the ‘norm’. In the DJ’s box
 you had the ‘unsurpassable Lez’
 at the controls giving the public exactly what they wanted. This being every rock classic under 
the sun delivered in a barrage of sound assaulting the senses along with Lez’s memorable one liners over the mike such as “Come on Rebels F**kin’ Rock ‘n’ Roll!!!!!””

Philip Cuffy Cuthbertson has fond memories: “I remember standing 
at the back, near Lez’s DJ
 box, along with the rest of the thrashers, moaning about the music yet still getting up and headbanging to it! One of the worst days for Sheffield rock when that place closed. Many, many happy memories! Wish it would reopen, even if I would look really old there now!”

Chris Twiby had issues with the stairs: “I fell down them a few times as I remember – they seemed to go on forever.”

Friendships were made at Rebels that still carry on decades after the last tune was played in the mid-1990s.

Do you have some great stories or photographs relating to your nights out at Rebels? Want to share them for a forthcoming book? Send them to [email protected]