Techno DJs In Pubs, Queer Nights In Cutlery Factories... How Sheffield Became The UKs DIY Party Capital
Walk past Shakespeare's in Sheffield on a Thursday afternoon and you'll be greeted by a traditional drinking scene. Single men reading their papers and sipping pints, true ale lovers scribbling in little notebooks, someone quietly eating a pork pie and nibbling on chips in the corner. But come back a few hours later and the steady beat of techno will send shivers through those frothy beer glasses.
Dance music and hearty pub crawls might not necessarily be things you want to combine, but every first Thursday of the month the GROUNDWORK crew successfully finds these two worlds together in the Upstairs Lounge. "Club music and the warmth of a real pub, drinking good beer at reasonable prices and getting ready by midnight seems to make people happy," says Alex Hatch, who co-directs the project with Isaac Crooks, Jamie Roberts and Oliver Heaviside.
Roberts brings his PA system with homemade subwoofers and turns a 100-person venue normally reserved for pub quizzes and open mic nights into a sweaty, lively party that's alive and kicking. As evidenced by the huge success of Annie Mac's club night before midnight, Heath says there's clearly an appetite for alternative food for those who want to avoid "fueling up until 6am."
While Mac's Night is more of an incentive for non-parents, the starting job is full of warm-ups and meetings for 20-year-olds. Sets are sourced from resident DJs as well as an ever-changing mix of guests, and heavy techno's original mission now extends to mainstream leftfield club music. Depending on who is playing, you can hear everything from Balearic grooves to disco noise to industrial. . EBM
They turned a space normally used for pub quizzes into a sweaty, lively and fun party.
The night's old-school action is matched only by a low-key approach to advertising. "We've never been so concerned with advertising print," says Heath. "It's not really in our nature. We've always done it this way: create a Facebook event and post it once, post a message on Instagram and that's it. We do it when five or ten people come, and now we do it when the pub is full."
The collective DJs at other parties around town but show no signs of slowing down five years after their first night at Shakespeare. "We've been very fortunate that each foundation has somehow outperformed the last," said co-founder Crooks. "It's a little joke that we're going to die soon, but we never will."
This understated, handmade and understated approach to the holidays thrives in Sheffield. In 2022 is a massive, modern club in a former steelworks, the Forge and Hope Works, a former cannon barrel factory that has been a center for dance music in Sheffield for years. The best parties in town don't always have to be in traditional clubs these days. Instead, they show up in old stores, warehouses, manufacturing plants, secret locations and foundation works, in real pubs.
Parties like Apricot Ballroom, Side5tep, Thirdspace, La Rumba, Kabal and Control explore every nook, nook and cranny of the post-industrial to create a unique experience that the city and quintessential big club has to offer. Experience.
"There's definitely a big school of thought," says Heath. "More people seem to be realizing that you don't have to pay £15 to see a big name in a big place and have a good time. Back then, before our time, a lot of what made a good night was going to the same place, meeting the same people, and knowing that anyone making music was going to be good. We hope BASIC WORK captures its essence. Not against the more traditional Sheffield stuff, just to offer something different.
In the meantime, there's another night called Gut Stage to not only throw killer parties, but to cater to the needs of the underprivileged LGBTQ+ community. "It's about creating a unique little space in the city that creates a good time and social and creative opportunities for people who have never been there," says co-founder Fraser Scott. These “creative and social opportunities” range from organizing exhibitions to outdoor sessions and clothing swaps.
Gut Level is open to all, but to create a safe space for marginalized communities, you must be a member to attend the event. The rate started at just £2 a year. It's particularly unique in combining hedonism with "total relaxation," which can include everything from lectures to craft classes. The developers had to move the pages several times and change the actions in each place. Gut Level's last location was used as a former Grade II listed knife factory, which was later (of course) bought by property developers as living space. It's still an in-between location, but there's a comfortable temporary place in town for people to work, eat together, and attend day workshops; Back to focus.
It's about creating a small space that creates opportunities for people who previously had nowhere to go.
So what's behind all these new DIY parties flooding the city? According to the foundation's Roberts, this could be due to the current economic climate. People with less money become more creative and organize parties with less risk and potential waste. "I don't think the current climate can suspend expensive registrations of more than 700," says Roberts. "It makes more financial sense to make it smaller so the risks are lower."
A natural consequence of throwing a party on the smaller end of things is the creation of a real and meaningful community. In the year since launching in 2019, Gut Rank has gained 2,000 members. "There's a tight mix of constants that make the neighborhood what it is," says Scott. "Shameful strangers, party leaders and hypocrites - people we want to disrupt and help us get things moving."
This shows that this is more than night time. The young people of Sheffield are building great things here. "The cultural significance of hedonism and dance music hasn't always been understood," says Scott. We had the best nights of our lives and caught up with most of our friends and colleagues at the music and the parties. These areas play an important role in our society.
However, a strong group of true alcoholics should welcome the once-a-month techno parties at Shakespeare. "There are always older people coming out of the bar to see what's going on," says GROUNDWORK's Hatch, "but we can rarely hold them for more than 10 minutes."