Sheffield retro: looking back at Sheffield’s first punk venue – West Street’s legendary Limit

Although West Street’s legendary Limit venue didn’t actually open until punk was well into its second year, the initial idea had been buzzing around in DJ George Webster’s head for years, writes Neil Anderson.
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He was in a better position than most to make a success of things. Webster already had the following from the city’s Buccaneer and Wapentake Bar.

Punk rock wasn’t being catered for at The Wapentake and there was also that gap in the market for a venue catering for smaller bands following the closure of the Black Swan.

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But it takes a lot more than spinning a few discs to open, run and manage a successful venue and that’s where Kevan Johnson came in.

Siouxsie at the Limit in March 1978Siouxsie at the Limit in March 1978
Siouxsie at the Limit in March 1978

As well as being an ex-policeman, Johnson also knew the licensing trade because his dad had run pubs in Heeley and Woodseats for years.

The Limit passed its afternoon inspection by the fire service with flying colours on March 22, 1978,and prepared to open that night.

It was actually local club-act Bitter Suite that packed the place on opening night.

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Paul Unwin, who was The Limit manager as well as its main DJ, said: “Opening night was a total disaster but the customers wouldn’t have known that. We’d come as DJs but we were now asked to be night-club managers.”

Siouxsie and the Banshee were the first big national band to perform.

Paul Unwin remembers: “Nobody had ever seen anything like Siouxsie and the Banshees in Sheffield; she’d just got a single in the charts that was Hong Kong Garden and she was at the height of the punk scene then.”

Andy Smith, Def Leppard’s first roadie, said: “My favourite Limit night wasn't the Lepps funnily enough (too busy working - a road- ie's life never stops). No, that'd be Siouxsie and the Banshees. The gang had been to see Thin Lizzy at the City Hall on their 'Thunder and Lightning' tour. Came out and wandered to the 51 stop - only to see a queue outside the Limit. Pleased to learn that Siouxsie was on so we saw that too. And I got up for work next day.

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“And I wasn't late. “And I had change from a tenner. Eee lad, them were t’ days....”

Sheffield’s own band The Push – fronted by Ray Ashcroft, who was to become far better known as an actor starring in The Bill and Emmerdale – were actually the first punk act to perform at The Limit.

They lined up to play the second night (March 23, 1978).

The Limit was into its stride within days and was soon building an enviable reputation for booking bands about to break into the big-time. Adam & the Ants and the Cramps were soon to play ground-breaking gigs. The bar was set high from day one.

•Content supplied by Neil Anderson. ‘Take It To The Limit’ is available from www.dirtystopouts.com for £16.95