‘DIY or DIE’: Sheffield music venue plans return

‘DIY or DIE’: Sheffield music venue plans return

A Sheffield music venue, famed for its electrifying 100 capacity gigs in a disused warehouse in Sheffield city-centre, is set to rise from the ashes next year with a new venue in the heart of Kelham Island.

The Lughole, which began life as a ‘DIY punk cooperative and venue’ in 2013, is hoping to spread its wings in its new larger 200-capacity space just as soon as the current restrictions are eased.

The venue’s DIY ethos is all about providing facilities and support to help people get involved in making and producing music at all levels. This ethos will continue at the new site, which will also still be reliant on passionate volunteers and music lovers who are resolute in their efforts to address issues of affordability for both musicians and fans.

The original Lughole

One of the venue’s founders Avi, who has been involved with the punk scene for around 20 years and describes himself as ‘a punk, family man, musician, sound person and organiser’, told Push: “The Lughole was a dream we had after losing two regular venues we held gigs in (for the older music heads you will remember Cricketers Arms and Under the Boardwalk).

“The gigs we put on were mainly in pub function rooms so availability depended on what might be booked that night, on occasion being turned down as there was a darts or snooker league on. As pubs started closing or became more homogenous, we found it harder and harder to host gigs.

“We decided then that we wanted our own space so we can do things our way. The Lughole started as, and still is today, a volunteer collective with approximately 25-30 volunteers. We initially aimed to address the issues around affordable venues, practice spaces and equipment availability in our scene that had a knock-on effect on ticket affordability, audience diversity and artist fees.

The beginning of a new era for the venue

“We established scaled entry fees that covered basic operating costs and ensured that artists received the majority of the door takings. The on-site practice rooms meant more flexibility and better costs for bands and artists, and the house backline meant that they didn’t have to hire large vehicles to transport their equipment to the venue.”

Despite all their hard work, in 2018 the venue was forced to close due to new capacity restrictions that made running gigs unfeasible. Undeterred, they continued to run gigs at other venue until they found a new venue.

“In 2019 we registered The Lughole as a cooperative and found a new building in the Kelham Island area.” says Avi (who is pictured above in his natural habitat), “Having received the relevant permissions and licenses, we moved in in Feb 2020, ready to start the small renovation work, then COVID hit and the world changed.

“We were on the brink of extinction, but postponing the project was not an option as we had invested so much money through planning, solicitors, acoustic checks and all the rest of the groundwork that got us to the point.

“COVID left us feeling very nervous as we committed to a substantial project and ongoing costs without a plan of when we would be able to do gigs again.”

Thankfully, with the support of a collective friend Danny and the Music Venue Trust, they submitted grant applications to Arts Council for the gap in rent/utilities and to support the building work and the founders who are no strangers to adverisut when it comes to the venue, are now hopeful they can get through this period.

Avi said: “Throughout the seven years we have been in existence we have experienced numerus difficulties which overall boiled down to lack of understanding of community and collective based venues and the fact that it is ran solely on the goodwill of the collective volunteers.

“More recently we have experienced some barriers with official routes such as planning, licensing and the various professionals involved. I would highlight that without our pro bono Architect/bureaucracy fighter James’s support we would not be at the good position we are today.”

Once allowed to reopen, the venue hopes to relaunch its peer support collective and deliver a wide range of live music events. The new venue has a larger 200+ capacity room which will enable them to accommodate larger and higher profile DIY artists. There are also more practice spaces and communal areas, allowing them to support more new artists, establish a promoter’s peer support forum and strengthen the collective.

Avi said: “The Lughole started as a punk rock venue but has evolved to encompass DIY artists across genres. Our improved space will allow us to work with new promoters to further diversify our programming. It will improve audience experience, with a member’s bar area and better accessibility to create a welcoming safe environment for people who struggle to access mainstream gigs.”

As it stands, under the current tiering system, the venue is still unable to open to its full capacity, although some elements of the building including practice rooms are already operating and are going to be rolled out in stages.

“The current tiering system may make some event possible in theory,” says Avi “Like the majority of other venues, it is not financially viable to host gigs with the current seated capacity guidelines nor do we feel that these types of events are in line with the ethos at The Lughole as it would inflate ticket prices and make it inaccessible.

“With a vaccine being rolled out we are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and are hoping we can survive long enough to see it off. My last parting words would be, support your local independent shops, pubs, restaurants, artists etc. and check out other DIY venues in Sheffield such as Hatch, Delicious Clam and newly opened Gut Level.

“Innovation will not come from big corporate bodies but from individuals with passion for what they do. Lughole will rise again. DIY or DIE!”

In order to help the volunteer-led venue survive this uncertain period any financial support is very much appreciated. They have an ongoing Go Fund Me running https://uk.gofundme.com/f/lughole-ii and you can check out their social media for updates on the ways you can support them. If you are interested in volunteering or become part of the collectives, please email: Lugholesheffield@gmail.com
Ashley Birch
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