With aggressive redevelopers and increasing rents contributing to a continued fall in the number of nightclubs and music venues across the UK, these havens of creativity and hedonism are becoming more and more precious to those who frequent them.

Whether you’re a seasoned regular who stays until sunrise week in, week out, or a more fleeting visitor who only treads the floor a couple of times a year, it is within these spaces that long-lasting friendships are born and the cultural scenes which come to dominate a city’s nightlife for years to come are nurtured.

Sheffield is no stranger to exciting, forward-thinking music and nightlife, but neither it is immune to their myriad threats. Niche nightclub, the home of bassline, was cut down in its prime by an overzealous constabulary, taking with it the very scene it had helped to foster, and The Boardwalk on Snig Hill, host to the first ever Clash gig, despite regular rumours promising a resurrection, is yet to open its doors again. This is a pattern which is repeating itself over and over again in Britain.

But for me, and many other dance music fans who have lived in Sheffield over the last ten or so years, there is one particular closure which is pulling heavily on our heartstrings: that of DLS or, as it has later been known, The Night Kitchen. Previously home of Kutrite Works, one of the many cutlery firms who operated in the city, it went on to become one of the premier underground dance music venues in Sheffield, if not England, playing host to legendary Sheffield institutions such as Collect, Cargo and Off Me Nut Records, as well UK and international artists like Daniel Avery, Ejeca, Avalon Emerson and Move D.

But what does a nightclub mean to its city and its inhabitants? And what made DLS and The Night Kitchen so special to so many people?

Over the past few months, as part of my MA at the University of Sheffield, I have been contacting many of those involved in the illustrious history of the space, collecting stories, posters and images to display alongside archive photographs from its days as a home to a cutlery firm. The result is a small exhibition which I hope pays homage to a venue which meant an awful lot to an awful lot of people. It will serve as an opportunity to learn a little bit about the space from the people who knew it most intimately and to jog some memories from nights past.

But alongside this, it will also be an opportunity to have your say on what you would prefer to see this industrial den turned into in the future. The current proposals for 7 Smithfield are for a series of townhouses, a proposal not too dissimilar to another legendary nightclub on the other side of the hills in Manchester. But why is this seen a more valid use of Sheffield’s industrial heritage by town planners and politicians? Why isn’t more protection afforded to the cultural institutions which make these very areas so attractive to investors in the first place?

For many cities in the North of England, the memories of their industrial past – the factories, warehouses and mills – are seen more and more as an investment opportunity for the wealthy, rather than the collective property of a city’s inhabitants as a whole. The current commodification and fetishisation of this industrial heritage means that many people whose lives have been shaped by this past will lose access to it, and it will instead become the preserve of those who can afford the ludicrous rental or purchase prices.

Let’s take this opportunity to set it right. If you could redevelop The Night Kitchen, what would you turn it into? Or would you keep it the same? I want to know what the people of Sheffield want to see done with their industrial heritage and how they would preserve it for future generations.

The exhibition takes place at Jessop West Foyer on 12 and 13 July, 10am to 4pm. If you’re interested in contributing to the project, please get in touch.

Art: Nemo’S, issue #121

David Ewing