Sheffield Leadmill bosses claim landlords are “exterminating” them after they denied plans to close venue

The new owners evicting the Leadmill team who have run the venue since 1980 claimed: "management may change but the song stays the same"

The current bosses of Sheffield’s Leadmill have responded to the owners denying their intentions to close the venue.

Yesterday (Thursday March 31), the iconic Sheffield venue and club announced the “devastating news that in one year’s time, our Landlord is trying to evict us, forcing us to close” – leading to an outpouring of upset and support from the music world.

Dominic Madden is CEO and co-founder of Electric Group, the company who bought the freehold for the site of the Leadmill in March 2017. He took to Twitter this morning to assure music fans that they had no intension of closing the venue when they end the current occupiers’ lease in 2023.

“For avoidance of doubt, we are music people, we spend our lives running independent music venues and the Leadmill will continue to operate as a special music venue,” said Madden, whose company also own London’s Electric Brixton, the SWX nightclub in Bristol, and NX Newcastle.

He added: “The management may change but the song stays the same.”

Along with Madden, Electric Group is a joint venture with Jake Lewis of the Lewis Family who run retailer River Island, along with hotels, property development and asset management businesses.

Meanwhile, Electric Group’s head of music Mike Weller added: “There was never any question of us closing the Leadmill, despite all the social media chat.

“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 Leadmill started by replying to Madden by claiming that removal of the current management team who have been running the site since 1980 still counted as “evicting the Leadmill and forcing us out of business”, before claiming that they were being “exterminated by the landlord”.

“They are destroying our business by evicting us,” they said in a statement to NME. “They intend to profit from the goodwill and reputation built up over those 40 plus years. It is a cheap, shabby, sly and underhand way of doing business, by forcing companies to cease trading.”

“Millions of pounds have been spent by The Leadmill (not the Landlord) on the fabric of what was once a derelict building. It is the hard-working, dedicated and local family of staff that have put 42 years worth of their blood, sweat and tears into making it the cultural asset it is today. Without The Leadmill, the building we currently occupy would be nothing more than a derelict old flour mill.”

The Leadmill in Sheffield
The Leadmill in Sheffield Credit: The Leadmill

The venue continued: “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. The Leadmill brand and name is owned by us and only us, without us there is no Leadmill. Mr. Madden, stop using the Leadmill’s name to further your miserable mean ambitions.

“We have received tens of thousands of supportive messages, and the Music Community is asking how they can help to stop this appalling development. We are in the process of organising a petition, which we will ask everyone to sign. More details to follow in the next few days.”

The Leadmill added: “We’re overwhelmed with the sheer volume of support we’ve had over the last 24 hours. It means the world to us that you’re all standing in solidarity in fighting this with us. Thank you.

“#WeCantLoseLeadmill.”

Many are still upset at Electric Group’s decision to take over the venue. Martyn Ware of Sheffield new wave legends Heaven 17 replied to Madden: “You are running a business – people understand that – but your company’s unconscionable behaviour in kicking out the people who have run this venue for over 40 years, thereby ending the culturally iconic Leadmill status and discarding the brand is both idiotic and immoral.”

“I and thousands of others urge you to reconsider, or I fear the reputation of your brand which you have developed successfully (at least financially) will be harmed beyond repair. The people have spoken, you need to listen…”

Music Venue Trust meanwhile, added: “We need to be clear that The Leadmill is not just a building. None of these venues is just a building. Leadmill is the people who have created the venue and the community who love it. That community has been told its beloved venue must end.”

Speaking to NME, The CharlatansTim Burgess shared his fondness for The Leadmill and his hope to keep it going.

“Sheffield is such a hugely important city for music, and The Leadmill is the lynchpin venue for so much that happens,” he said. “The Charlatans first played back in 2001 and I stopped by on my first solo tour too. I’ve been a few times to watch other bands too. The audience are always brilliant and the team that run it have always been hugely welcoming.

He continued: “To lose another legendary venue would be tragic. We need venues to inspire the next generation of musicians. We definitely need to make a stand otherwise every city will start losing the stages which are heart and soul where bands learn their craft.”

The Charlatans
The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess. CREDIT: Getty Images.

In their statement yesterday, the venue said: “Since 1980 The Leadmill has spent millions of pounds on what was a derelict warehouse, transforming it into one of the UK’s most respected venues where countless acts from across the globe have performed over the years.”

The team then asked people to show their support by “sharing this news and sharing your best memories that we can gather to help show them reasons why #WeCantLoseLeadmill”.

The likes of Sea Power, The Subways, Ash, Joe Lycett, Nish Kumar, Rolo Tomassi, Steve Lamacq, Marc Riley, Paul Heaton and many more then spoke out in support of the venue – with Eddie Izzard, Manic Street Preachers, Billy Bragg, The Brudenell Social Club, Enter Shikari, Sleaford Mods and more since speaking out to keep The Leadmill alive. See their reactions below.

In 2020, The Leadmill was among the many venues in danger of permanently closing due to the shutdown of the live events industry at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic.

Reopening in September 2020, the venue offered its thanks to Arctic Monkeys after the band raised over £100,000 towards the venue’s survival through a charity raffle of Alex Turner’s guitar.

“That’s an insane amount of money and will go so far to securing not only the bricks and mortar of venues, but also their key members of staff,” Leadmill’s then-general manager Rebecca Walker told NME.

“We so humbled and so grateful. We couldn’t thank the guys enough for listening to us and allowing us to reach out to them, but also just their generosity. To them, it’s just a guitar but to us it’s a lifeline – it’s a matter of whether a venue can stay open or not.”

The venue also auctioned off special memorabilia in order to support its staff through the pandemic.

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