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'The Leadmill is not closing,' London-based landlord tries to insist

Huge backlash from Sheffield musicians, businesses and individuals as London-based Electric Group, which owns the Leadmill site, declares intent to end existing lease and manage the venue itself from March 2023.

Leadmill Nightclub Sheffield
PookieFugglestein (Wikimedia Commons)

The landlord company which owns the Leadmill site has issued a statement titled, 'Electric Group keeps the beat at iconic Leadmill Sheffield.'

In it the company said that from March 2023 it "will oversee a substantial investment in the Leadmill – the sort of acclaimed facilities and sonic overhaul the company has already delivered at its venues in South London and Bristol."

Although the news makes clear that the iconic space will continue to host live music, residents and industry figures are likely to be dismayed that the venue is being taken over by a big company not based in Sheffield, after its long and eventful 42 year history.

The Leadmill issued a statement shortly after Electric Group's, saying the London-based company "intend to profit from the goodwill and reputation built up over those 40 plus years."

"Without The Leadmill, the building we currently occupy would be nothing more than a derelict old flour mill," it said.

A tweet from Electric Group CEO Dominic Madden attracted many negative comments from Sheffield musicians, businesses and individuals on Thursday.

Martyn Ware, founding member of the Human League and Heaven 17, said that Electric Group's "unconscionable behaviour" was "idiotic and immoral."

Local band Before Breakfast tweeted: "You have underestimated passionate Sheffield folk and we won’t give up without a fight."

Another Twitter user said: "Music venues aren't just the four walls, they are the people that programme and curate the events and the brilliant staff that bring them to life."

It is not clear whether, on taking over management of the site, Electric Group would have the legal right to keep calling the venue 'the Leadmill'.

Mike Weller, head of music at Electric Group, said “there was never any question of us closing the Leadmill."

“The refurb will make the room better equipped to accommodate the modern wants of live music and club nights, for audiences and performers.

“We want to ensure the Leadmill’s future is as exciting as its history.”

The initial annoucement of the news yesterday led to an outpouring of support from local people with fond memories of the Leadmill, shared using the hashtag #WeCantLoseTheLeadmill.

In its second public statement, the Leadmill called on Madden and Electric Group to "stop using the Leadmill’s name to further your miserable mean ambitions."

"Everything that people love about it would be gone, replaced by individuals with poor ethical values who have had no part in what makes The Leadmill so special."

A raft of international performers of all kinds – including Billy Bragg, Nish Kumar, Sleaford Mods, Shaparak Khorsandi, The Pogues, Self Esteem, Enter Shikari, Manic Street Preachers, Eddie Izzard and Maxïmo Park – spoke out immediately in favour of protecting the venue under its current management. Sheffield MPs Paul Blomfield, Olivia Blake and Louise Haigh also voiced their support.

According to its website, the Electric Group is "a Joint Venture between Co-Founders, Dominic Madden, CEO, and Jake Lewis of the Lewis Family."

The Lewis family owns retailer River Island. Its founder Bernard Lewis and family are currently listed by Forbes as having a net worth of $1.3bn, "#2171 in the world today."

The Brixton-based Electric Group owns and operates Electric Brixton (formerly The Fridge), the SWX nightclub in Bristol, and the former O2 Academy Newcastle, which it says will reopen in October 2022 as a new venue called NX following a £1.5m refurbishment.

A petition in favour of granting the Leadmill 'asset of community value' status had attracted 1,670 signatures at the time of writing.

The Leadmill could not be reached for comment on this story.

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