Sheffield is always undergoing a constant evolution – from the industrial revolution and the growth of the steel works to their demise and closure, from a city of ‘’sinister magnificence’’ to the greenest city in England.
A new change has been underway for a little while now, but perhaps it’s not so obvious by daylight. The term ‘warehouse party’ has, in recent times and in many parts of the country, been used to describe exactly the opposite. A bit of exposed brickwork has become enough of a reason to label a night as something far more edgy and removed from the conventional club environment. Often it’s a student night exploiting the apparent market pull of the term’s current popularity. This increasingly generic term is not to what I am referring here.
What has occurred in Sheffield is that the industrial areas that were hives of activity, stimulated by the rigour of the working week and complemented by almost full employment, were subject to the trauma and shock of the economic system. Many steelworks and industrial units were stripped and their previous occupants sent elsewhere. Their use had been diminished. There they stood, in areas visited largely solely by lead thieves, shoppers visiting Meadowhall and commuters heading to the ventricles of the M1. Still largely untouched, they were a timely reminder of a bygone era.
Now Sheffield’s DIY ethos and entrepreneurial spirit is revitalising these areas. Previous symbols of decline have been appropriated into spaces of celebration, diversity and creativity. This in itself is nothing new. Events of this nature have a long and fascinating tradition in Sheffield, but their new found scope and regularity indicate that a transformation is occurring.
The city centre remains, but its nightlife increasingly toils in the shadow of shiny new flats and stringent noise regulations. Undeterred by the absence of cheap intoxication or the comfort of VIP areas, clubbers increasingly head to esoteric nights outside the familiarity of the insular middle.
Sheffield’s steely reputation still holds as fiercely as ever, but its intricacies are being rewoven and reshaped. These new environments attract revellers from all over the country. Fresh-faced students, far from being discouraged by the unfamiliarity or the imposing nature of these spaces, pervade the structural relics of the foundations of the city.
There’s almost a beautiful nostalgia experience by people, myself included, who are far too young to have a first-hand recollection of these spaces, and instead dance till the morning. But rather than being ignored and abandoned, the past drives a push into new territories.
As the operation of these nights become more achievable and sustainable, significant labours have gone towards making them fit for purpose. Roofs continue to shake throughout the night, driven by the lower frequencies, but the focal point of all of this – the music – sounds increasingly at home in venues that are now becoming fit and ever-present hosts to such events.
Sheffield has become indulged with some of the most eclectic, varied and exciting happenings in the UK. It used to be that the best night out involved a Megabus ticket and a friend’s floor, a scenario that has been supplanted with a taxi past the quays.
It’s a fascinating evolution with seemingly limitless potential to inspire new ideas about the environments in which we showcase artistic creativity. I am cautious to not overstate what is at present a limited offering due to the levels of licensed, usable stock. But Sheffield has a huge pool of largely untapped potential within which to house the fiery talents of its residents. This becomes especially poignant at a time when cities throughout the UK struggle to lift themselves out the shadow of the capital.
It has always been an adaptable place – it’s had to be – although the process of change hasn’t always been simple. Now these changes are nurtured and driven by the attitudes of the people, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the transition to industrial spaces.Checan Laromani