Sheffield Leadmill: Pulp, Stone Roses, Trigger Nation and school trips – why I love The Leadmill

I was probably aged about 14 the first time I became aware of the Sheffield institution that is The Leadmill.

Friday, 1st April 2022, 2:01 pm
Updated Friday, 1st April 2022, 2:02 pm

And it wasn’t for the music.

It was a school theatre trip for a play in one of its smaller rooms. The whole of class 3J at Tapton travelled by bus, for a drama with a gender equality message, about sexist reactions received by a woman taking a job as a bus driver.

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Reporter David Kessen explains why he loves The Leadmill in Sheffield..Picture by Simon Hulme

Having been there for a school trip, I was rather sniffy when my older sister went there on nights out. Why would you want to go somewhere schools go? I didn’t understand what The Leadmill was about.

A few years later, I’d changed my tune.

Isabellas, Cairo Jax

A little older, I had discovered Sheffield’s music scene, away from the more mainstream Isabellas and Cairo Jax.

Adam Morley resident DJ at The Leadmill for over 30 years. Picture Scott Merrylees

Leadmill Friday night DJs were a world away. You’d get a mix of indie bands and the emerging world of house music. A video screen showed an eclectic mix of film images, ranging from Felix the Cat to Buddy Holly.

I don’t think I ever saw any trouble there.

Saturdays brought great bands to the venue.

After visiting pubs on West Street, like the Beehive or Hornblower, we would make our way through town, across The Moor and over the footbridge on Eyre Street.

One of my most treasured memories was the night we headed off to see Jack Rubies, a band who’d been on a television show called Famous for 15 Minutes.

Before they came on stage, we saw a supporting band looking like refugees from the 1960s, in paint splattered tops and sideburns. They played wah-wah guitar, unusual at the time.

There was no moshing at the front. No one seemed to know who they were.

We asked a chap, who was singing along near the front, who they were. “Stone Roses,” he replied, in February 1988.

Another time, we planned to see Happy Mondays. After queuing, there was an announcement that they would not be playing, and it would only be the support band, Eat, on stage. It was not said what had happened to the Mondays.

The list of great bands was massive. I remember seeing unsigned Sheffield band Trigger Nation there. I was friends with band members Mark Bebbington and Nic Bate, having worked with them at Debenhams on The Moor. They took some of us backstage to show us the dressing rooms, before playing a great show as a support act.

1980s and 1990s Leadmill

Then there was the time I got Jarvis Cocker’s autograph on my ticket, as he walked around after a 1993 Pulp show. Bizarrely, as I chatted to him someone came and asked for my own signature, and could not be persuaded that I was not famous.

After the show, it would be a quick stop at the burger van outside, before queuing for a taxi, ears still ringing from the music.

I am far from the only one with loving memories of the place. I remember television personality Emily Maitlis waxing lyrical about it on a chat show.

It was always more than just a music venue – it has a unique feel. For a venue to last as long as The Leadmill has is remarkable.

For the Leadmill to close or change name would be awful – it has heritage few can match.

And those looking to change how it is run should be careful. Sheffield does not want a faceless venue – it wants somewhere with the heart and spirit of The Leadmill.