Hearing begins to determine the future of The Leadmill, as huge rally of support gathers in Sheffield

A hearing to determine the future of The Leadmill took place today (September 18) as protesters gathered outside Sheffield’s Town Hall in support of saving the venue.

Last March, the iconic Sheffield venue announced that it was facing threat of closure due to its landlord issuing a notice of eviction. It subsequently sparked outcry across the music industry and from gig-goers.

The building’s owners, Electric Group, who bought the site’s freehold in 2017, previously told music fans that they had no intention of closing the venue at the end of the current occupiers’ lease in 2023.

“The management may change but the song stays the same,” Dominic Madden, CEO and co-founder of Electric Group, wrote on Twitter.

However, management claimed they were being “exterminated by the landlord” before launching a fresh appeal to fans.

Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker onstage at the Leadmill in Sheffield on August 9. Credit: Tom Sunderland

Today, councillors were considering an application for a shadow premises licence – a second licence landlords can obtain for a premises that already operates under one – according to the BBC.

According to the application, the two licenses “will not operate at the same time” but would allow the landlord “to have his own licence to protect his position should the tenant do anything to put the premises licence in jeopardy”.

Crowds of people gathered in support of The Leadmill with signs and banners ahead of the meeting, which was due to last two days but wrapped up after just one.

Sarah Clover, who addressed the panel on behalf of The Leadmill, claimed the application was “unlawful” and criticised the lack of a designated premise supervisor (DPS) or a comment from the police, adding that the license would be “Frankenstein’s monster that you cannot control”.

She also said there had been a “an unusual reluctance in the response from the police and authorities to step up to the plate”, adding: “The police are not here, they should be and it’s wrong. You should require them to be here.”

A legal representative for Madden, Paddy Whur, argued the application had followed the “correct legal process” and was “valid”.

He added: “If there hadn’t been a very strong vocal and impassioned objection over the loss of The Leadmill, we wouldn’t be here today because this is a valid application and your officers would have accepted this and it would have been granted.”

Ahead of the rally today, Madden told Sheffield newspaper The Star: “I’m not a property developer or a ‘shadowy’ London investor coming to ruin and destroy an arts institution.”

Back in July, The Leadmill launched the ‘Battle For The Soul Of Sheffield’ campaign in a bid for more support.

“This isn’t just about The Leadmill,” said a spokesperson in the venue’s message posted to their website and social media. “Everything that’s made our city what it is today is now at stake.

“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.”

Last week, The Leadmill responded after offering £40 to volunteers to attend their rally to save the venue.

“We don’t know how many people will turn up and as The Leadmill staff will likely be in the hearing itself, we have teamed up with Gosh to ensure the rally is professionally and safely managed by some of their team outside,” the venue said.

In response, Madden said: “[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.”

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