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Protesters defiant in support of the Leadmill

Despite controversies, supporters of the iconic Leadmill showed up outside the Town Hall yesterday, and "it was clear to see that no one was in it for the money". 

A group of people outside an old building with banners reading things like "Battle for the soul of Sheffield" and "We can't lose Leadmill"

Rally in support of the Leadmill outside the Town Hall

Jamie Hartle

Around 60 protestors gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall to demonstrate before the beginning of a meeting on regarding the future of Sheffield's longest running music venue, The Leadmill.

The meeting was convened to discuss the application by the building owners, Electric Group, for a 'shadow license'. The approval of a shadow license would allow the landlords to continue running the venue as a club without the the current tenants.

In March 2022, the venue landlords told the current tenants to vacate the premises in 12 months' time, which the longstanding owners have repeatedly called a 'hostile takeover'. The decision led to public outcry and a strong show of support from acts who are synonymous with Sheffield culture such as Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and John McClure.

With the original March 2023 eviction date long passed, The Leadmill are selling tickets for gigs up to December 2024, with no plans to go down without a fight.

A group of people with banners and placards reading things like "Can't dance without you" and "Don't take my happy place away".

Protesters outside the Town Hall supporting the Leadmill

Jamie Hartle

A statement released by The Leadmill before the protest read: “This hostile takeover threatens to kickstart a race to the bottom of a corporate barrel, putting at risk over 43 years of cultural heritage, history and community work from across our city, its people and businesses.

“If we don't stop this hostile takeover, the very soul and character of our great city is at risk. It couldn't be clearer: This is not just about The Leadmill. This is a fundamental Battle for the Soul of Sheffield.”

Demonstrators carried signs created by local artists adorned with sayings like “Keep local venues local” and ‘#WECANTLOSELEADMILL’, another reminder of the importance that the venue holds in the Sheffield cultural world. Throughout the one-hour demonstration, chants could be heard across the city centre to the tune of Pulp’s ‘Common People’ and ‘Together in Electric Dreams’, a seemingly ironic choice considering who was the subject of the protests.

Sheffield resident and protestor Jack Starr, 26, told Now Then, “Look at the amount of bands that have come up from there. Arctic Monkeys, Pulp and going back further than that there’s a lot of alternative groups like Cabaret Voltaire.

“These clubs need to exist to let small bands come through.

“It would be a really sad place to lose for students and Sheffielders in general because there is a lot of history there.”

Leading up to the protest, it was reported that the Leadmill was offering volunteers £40 to show up, which led Electric Group CEO Dominic Madden to state: “[The] decision to resort to renting a crowd outside Sheffield Town Hall on the day of the licensing hearing is a clear indication that public interest in their campaign is waning."

But looking around at the protestors, it was clear to see that no one was in it for the money. The hearing, which was expected to last two days, has already concluded, though the committee's decision has not yet been announced. However, it remains to be seen what the lasting impact of the verdict will be for this Steel City institution.

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