The current General Manager of Sheffield venue The Leadmill has spoken to local newspaper The Star as the war of words continues between his team and the building’s landlord The Electric Group, following the news the latter is evicting the former. In the interview, Ian Lawlor insists that, while The Electric Group “keep saying The Leadmill will continue … The Leadmill will not continue”.
The current management team at The Leadmill announced last month that they are being evicted from the building that has operated as a venue for more than 40 years. However, The Electric Group – which bought the building in 2017 and runs venues in other UK cities – says that The Leadmill will continue to operate in its current form, just with new management in place.
In his own recent interview with the Star, Electric Group CEO Dominic Madden said: “It shouldn’t be a massive surprise given we bought The Leadmill and we’ve spent our lives acquiring, operating and nurturing grassroots music venues elsewhere, that it would clearly be the intention to take it back at the end of the lease, refurbish it and invest in it and make sure it’s ready to serve audiences and artists for the next 30 years”.
“The idea that we would take something as culturally significant, important and well-loved as The Leadmill and close it down and turn it into flats is a nonsense”, he added, responding to the initial backlash after Lawlor’s team went public about the eviction. “We have a track record of investing in music venues and an understanding of the cultural significance of this venue in Sheffield”.
But the current Leadmill management team argue that Madden is basically stealing their brand and good reputation in order to get a head start as his company enters the Sheffield live music market.
“They keep saying The Leadmill will continue, that the Leadmill will be safe”, Lawlor told The Star. “The Leadmill will not continue – The Leadmill is us, the staff and all the fixtures. We’ll take everything with us, because we own it – the fixtures, the equipment, the doors. When we leave it will be a derelict flour mill, and that’s what they will be left with. They’ll have to start from scratch, it will take them a year to get it up and running”.
“There’s thousands of empty buildings [in Sheffield that] they could have bought but they chose the Leadmill to bank our our name and good will”, he went on. “They’re pulling it from under our noses. We’ve had a long history of landlords over 43 years staying in the background collecting their rent, and we had no reason to think someone would do this to us”.
The Electric Group continues to insist that The Leadmill will play the exact same important role in the Sheffield music and entertainment scene even once it is directly managing the venue, adding that its existing operations in London and Bristol – Electric Brixton and SWX respectively – prove that it is capable of running a credible grassroots venue business.
Madden has also said that he’d like the venue to continue operating as The Leadmill, but his company has nevertheless registered the trademark in Electric Sheffield, presumably in case that’s not possible for legal reasons.
However, the current Leadmill team seem to be winning the PR battle here, especially within the Sheffield music community. Sam Gregory, Music Editor at Sheffield’s Now Then Magazine, told NME last week: “I haven’t come across any positive response from anyone in Sheffield”.
“I don’t know if that’s what the landlord expected”, he went on, “but now they’re public enemy number one. I went to a pub near the venue when it was announced and everyone was talking about it. It’s not just a Twitter thing, or [exclusive to] people who remember going there ten or 20 years ago. It’s people on the ground who live here now and are angry about it. It’s the cultural heart of the city and we don’t want that to be ripped out”.
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