Sheffield Sunday: photos from the Leadmill, 1986

They were empty hours full of procrastination and dread. Or maybe some tea, a bath, the Open University on telly. But thanks to the Leadmill, there was another way to kill Sunday afternoons in mid-1980s Sheffield.

Howard Street and Sheffield City Polytechnic, 1986

From Nether Edge and Crookes we came. From Sharrow, Broomhill, Walkley, Heeley. Wherever students, beardies, musos and lefties gathered in mid-1980s Sheffield, the call went out each Sunday lunchtime to leave our homes and gather down at the Leadmill; for jazz, for beer, for coffee and The Observer. We left our lines of red-brick terraced homes, we slammed the door on musty steel-tycoon mansions (now bed-sittered, with curtains hung on wire and forever pulled). We waited several yonks for Sunday buses – always thin on the ground back then – or just walked down Glossop Road, down Bramall Lane, down Howard Street, all closed up, bleak and empty.

No shops, no banks, no comings or goings; it was Sheffield on a Sunday. If you wanted to stretch your legs and head outside, you were meant to go to Endcliffe Park or Fox House, Ladybower or Bakewell. It wasn’t the city’s custom to head into town, so a 1986 Sunday lunchtime trip to the Leadmill still felt illicit – even though you were up to nothing naughtier than flipping through the colour section with a pint of Marston’s Pedigree.

One time, in 1986, I took a camera. And deep in the shadows of the pictures that follow, you can just about sense the subversion of a Leadmill Sunday: jazz solos, brown rice, noticeboards and flyers; the smuggery of those who got a seat, the awkwardness of those left to stand.

And when it was over the streets were still unfilled. There was a dawdling walk back home, or a sleep at the bus stop, and the whiling away of hours until Spitting Image, That’s Life, and bed. And town was just a playground for pigeons. Vacant. A city nodding out in the dusk.

Leadmill main room, Sheffield, 1986

Leadmill bar, Sheffield, 1986

Leadmill cafe, Sheffield, 1986

Leadmill cafe, Sheffield, 1986

Leadmill back room, Sheffield, 1986

Leadmill back room, Sheffield, 1986

Leadmill main room, Sheffield, 1986

Leadmill bar, Sheffield, 1986

Sheffield Cathedral, 1986

Text © Damon Fairclough 2006
Images © Damon Fairclough 1986

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