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Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
23 May 2024, 15:02

Historic Sheffield venue The Leadmill wins first court battle to avoid eviction

The High Court will now decide if a notice to vacate given to management and creative tenants breaks the law and infringes on Human Rights 

The Leadmill eviction court win

The Leadmill has won its first court battle to avoid eviction. The historic Sheffield venue, which has been running for more than 43 years, announced its victory on social media yesterday, Wednesday 22nd May. 

Recorder Mohyuddin, King's Counsel, heard the case on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st May at the Leeds Business & Property Court. This followed a change of legal team representing the venue, and the submission of a number of arguments to show the landlord is acting unlawfully. The matter has now been passed to the High Court, with three of the four points against eviction thought to have "a real prospect of success." A date is yet to be set for the next stage of proceedings. 

The venue has been locked in the dispute with Electric Group for around two years. The premises owner, which also runs Electric Brixton in London, SWX in Bristol, and Newcastle's NX, issued a notice to vacate the building in 2022, leading to widespread outcry across the music industry and among the public. The eviction notice came despite the fact that when The Leadmill was acquired in 2017 fans were reassured there were no intentions to close it when the current lease ended. 

High profile campaigning began soon after, with including by prominent figures like former-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and iconic South Yorkshire guitarist, singer and songwriter Richard Hawley, who staged a number of gigs at the address to raise awareness. Throughout this, Electric Group insisted the plan was to "continue operating the space as a music venue, focussing on a diverse mix of gigs, club nights and comedy events." 

“We want to invest in the future of the space – albeit one which will mark the start of a new chapter for a building which has many generations of history with a variety of different operators since it was first a flour mill,” said Electric Group co-founder Dominic Madden.

However, his latest submission to court has confirmed the venue would cease to be called The Leadmill if plans go through, and all current staff will lose their jobs. This conflicts with successive statements dating back to 2022 , which claimed staff and venue would remain largely unchanged. 

Further to this, studio workshops on the upper floor will also be emptied, putting more incomes at risk. Tenants include one artist who has held residency in the building for 38 years. Again, Madden had previously attempted to reassure people these businesses would not be affected, telling Virgin Radio in June 2023: "we are not interested in extinguishing things that are important to people... can [sic] almost guarantee that they will continue." 

"Our staff were at the hearing and were shocked to hear the news that [co-owner] Jacob Lewis and Dominic Madden were intending to destroy their livelihoods," The Leadmill management posted to social media this week. "In light of the Human Rights arguments that are now being considered, this case does not just involve The Leadmill. There are one and a half million businesses tenants in the UK who are at risk of having the goodwill of their business expropriated, their employees' livelihoods terminated." 

Opening as a venue in 1980, The Leadmill lays claim to a storied legacy including a number of early appearances from artists and acts that would go on to big things. Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon, and The Killers all played the stage during their formative years. You can find the upcoming programme here.

News of its potential demise reinforces concerns about the state of Britain's nightlife and music economies. According to the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), venues have been closing at an average rate of five per week during 2024, while 2023 saw 125 spaces permanently shut. Contributing factors include rocketing overheads, not least energy bills, and lower public spend due to the cost of living crisis. Real estate value and gentrification leading to forced evictions are also a huge problem. The team behind The Leadmill have now called on Government to "take steps to prevent such morally bankrupt business methods from occurring in the future."