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A Magazine for Sheffield

Never-before-seen photos shine a light on post-punk Sheffield

The work of photographer Marcus Featherby reveals a 1980s South Yorkshire brimming with creative energy and political rebellion.

Cabs 42

Cabaret Voltaire, photographed my Marcus Featherby.

Kristan James Melik / Days Like Tomorrow Books.

A new book has revealed never-before-seen pictures of some of Sheffield's most famous bands and cult music-makers in their early days.

'Revolution: Punk & Post-Punk Images' documents the work of Kristan James Melik, also known as Marcus Featherby, who passed away in 2021.

As a music obsessive, gig promoter and professional photographer for the BBC, Marcus took thousands of images of bands during the punk and post-punk era.

These include many Sheffield bands who went on to achieve superstardom, as well as others who remained cult favourites.

The book features early images of Cabaret Voltaire, as well as lesser known Sheffield groups like I’m So Hollow, Vice Versa and In The Nursery.

Photos Improved for Revolution book5

The Clash, photographed my Marcus Featherby.

Kristan James Melik / Days Like Tomorrow Books.

"Some years back I suggested to Marcus the idea of us doing a book based around his amazing photos and he agreed that it was a great idea", Tony Beesley, who edited and designed the book, told Now Then.

"This was a work in progress, but, sadly, Marcus passed away quite unexpectedly before we had really got it properly started. One of his last wishes was to pass on his music photo archive to me to complete what we had both envisaged years previously."

Marcus started taking photos in the 1960s as a hobby, capturing Tina Turner and The Kinks among others, but didn't turn professional until he was taken on by Record Mirror magazine in the late seventies.

He lived in Sheffield for a period of time coinciding with the punk and post-punk boom. He began to book gigs at Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University), bringing The Damned, Crass, Nico and Bow Wow Wow to the city to play alongside homegrown talent.

The 1980s were also a fervent period for radical politics in the city. Marcus booked bands for 'Rock on the Rates', a series of council-funded gigs that offered free entry to anyone claiming unemployment benefit, and which featured bands like New Order and The Fall.

Beesley says the photos from this period offer a "fresh and unique perspective" on the city's nascent post-punk scene. "The images were taken in small venues reflecting how intimate and insular the scene was at the time," he said.

"What they also do is to illustrate the diversity of the Sheffield music scene back then. Almost all of the bands had their own individual identity and style and the photos capture this."

The Negatives

Short-lived Sheffield mod rockers The Negatives.

Kristan James Melik / Days Like Tomorrow Books.

"As a young teenager, my parents couldn’t quite get their heads around my love of alternative music, my dress sense and my punk band Plastik Toyz," said Jamie Smith, who is featured in the book.

"Thankfully, Marcus did understand and I got to know him very well. He even put on our first gig. If it wasn’t for Marcus and his belief in me I know that I wouldn’t have spent a lifetime involved in music."

"Many years later, he bequeathed me the name of 'Bouquet of Steel'. There are so many stories relating to Marcus, but one thing is for sure, he completely changed my life and meant so much to me."

The book also contains passages written by Marcus himself to accompany the photos. Below are three extracts focusing on his time in Sheffield.


Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Kristan James Melik / Days Like Tomorrow Books.

On starting a label

A quirk of fate meant spending a night in Sheffield and I was directed to The Limit Club which featured live bands. Punilux were performing so it was easy to gain entry without having to pay, which I’d have been reluctant to do for a band I wasn’t terribly keen about. The support band, which for some reason played last at The Limit, was a trio called Vice Versa whose sound was similar to that of Cabaret Voltaire.

It was a sound which resonated with me and I wanted it to be appreciated by thousands of people. Having seen Cabaret Voltaire bottled off stage I knew it would be difficult to get any London label interested. Like the imaginary light bulb above the head, it flashed through my mind that one way of getting them across to a wider audience would be to release them on an independent label. I dislike clichés but, as they say, the rest is history.

Marcus Featherby.
Paul Bower 2 3

Paul Bower of Sheffield punk band 2.3, who were active from 1977 to 1979.

Kristan James Melik / Days Like Tomorrow Books.

On the Cabs

Fate had decreed I should end up living in Sheffield, home of Cabaret Voltaire., so I not only had an opportunity of seeing them perform on many occasions, I also became personally involved with the band in other ways. I got to know Steven Mallinder, otherwise known as Mal, quite well, though I mumbled a load of gibberish the first time I spoke with him.

There have only been a couple of occasions in my life when I’ve been in awe of another human being and that was one of them. I got to know Cabaret Voltaire well over the next few years. I visited their studio at Western Works when other bands used their facilities and I was present when they recorded The Seeds’ number 'No Escape' for their first album.

Marcus Featherby.

The Specials.

Kristan James Melik / Days Like Tomorrow Books.

On bringing Nico to Sheffield

Monday 26th October, 1981 is the gig I’ll never forget. It’s easily my most cherished memory of all the promotions I did in Sheffield, featuring Nico, and Eric Random with Celebrity Band as the support act. I’d first met Nico in London. Three years later I was at a party in Manchester hosted by Alan Wise. I’d been invited by Malcom Garrett, the designer of record sleeves for the Buzzcocks among others, who’d taken over the lease on my flat on the Isle of Dogs when it became evident I’d no intention of returning to London. I noticed Nico in the corner and was building up courage to go and speak to her, when she headed towards me.

“You are the man who gave me the rose,” she purred.

A couple of weeks later she rang me, saying she wanted to come and play for me in Sheffield. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Ignoring rules of how many were supposedly allowed in the venue, the room was packed to the proverbial rafters with the cognoscenti of the Sheffield hierarchy including The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire etc. It gave me a lot of kudos bringing Nico to Sheffield.

Marcus Featherby.

An earlier version of this piece included a photo of Pulp that was mistakenly attributed to Marcus Featherby, after it was found in his archives. The photo was actually taken by Mark Oliff. Apologies to Mark.

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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