indie travel guide                                                                                                      home
a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Sheffield, England

By Clare O'Neill

Sheffield is one of those places that the locals adore with a passion - just have a listen to Pulp’s "Sheffield Sex City" - but it can be slightly inaccessible to visitors. The town centre’s pretty small and constantly being worked on. It doesn’t put on a show, or have the parade of flashy shops and bars you might find in Leeds or Manchester, although the council is trying to regenerate in this style, and to be fair, there’s always something new to discover. The best thing about Sheffield is that it’s in touch with its roots. The brand new Millennium Galleries has a room dedicated to steel craftsmanship, the chiming clock in Orchard Square has a revolving "buffer girl" polishing knives and forks, there is even a hedge sculpture of a man pouring steel outside the town hall. His name (on a plaque) is Sheffy Stan. Richard Hawley’s album Coles’ Corner is steeped in romantic recollection of the million ordinary meetings and affairs the city has witnessed. And he promoted it with bottles of local speciality Henderson’s Relish.
This local pride is what makes Sheffield a singularly indie town. The Arctic Monkeys’ recent success must be at least partly down to their blatantly grassroots style, composed of local accent, observations and attitude. There’s hundreds of young bands (of varying quality) flying the flag for a music scene that’s still evolving from the electro explosion of the 70s and 80s (Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, ABC), the breath of fresh air that was Pulp in the 90s, erm… that mad bloke who plays the mouth organ on the buses and wears a paper hat… and a thousand other local influences.


Sonic Boom
The Leadmill, 6 Leadmill Road, 10pm-3am, £5/£4 (NUS)
First on the list because the Leadmill’s such an institution, a legendary venue, and this is the night you get into free if you stay after a Saturday gig. However, this can be a bit of a meat and potatoes indie night, recently worsened by the addition of those text message boards whereby you can tell the world who you fancy, or have your mates do it for you. Good if you want to get tanked up and jump up and down to stuff you know the words to, though, and you can even do it on the famous stage. Room two is the gentler retro soul room, a happy place where you can sing along to Motown classics.

Razor Stiletto
The Plug, 14-16 Matilda Street, 10.30pm-4am, £6 adv, more on the door
On the first Saturday of every month, this "chic electronique rock-tastic, orgiastic glitterati party" (say the promoters) has sharp and spiky live music, something of a burlesque show, balloons that fall from the ceiling, discounts for fancy dress (as I disappointingly found out after a while thinking these people were full-time eccentrics), greyhounds wearing kimonos and a DJ dressed as Ghandi. You can sometimes spot Phil Oakey propping up the bar. The Plug is a big new music venue, formerly called Zero.

The Raynor lounge, Sheffield University SU, Glossop Road, 9pm-1am, £3
This is a real indie treat. The twee-est thing in Sheffield as far as I know, one time giving out otter stickers and free lollies. Excellent, thoughtful and indeed ‘offbeat’ music selections, attracts a real mix of fans. Quite a small venue, although it has been recently extended. You’d better check the website for dates, it’s mostly Fridays, once or twice a month.

Fuzz Club
Fusion and Foundry, Glossop Road
Another Sheffield University event, a place to listen to new live bands, many on the cusp of fame. Plays "new indie, anti-disco, post pop, rock’n’roll". Thursday nights.

Mystery Machine
Corporation, Milton Street
Can be a fun Friday indie night, but you’re probably too old for this club if you’re over 18.



The Leadmill and the Plug are the big ones. Other places you can listen to live music include The Casbah and The Boardwalk, but I can’t vouch for the quality. The Octagon is part of the Sheffield University Students Union and has a good programme of bands, and the Sheffield Hallam Student Union has recently moved into the stunning "steel drum" buildings vacated by the failed (because it was rubbish) National Centre for Popular Music.



The Washington
79 Fitzwilliam Street
Owned by Pulp drummer Nick Banks, this traditional pub has a good selection of beers, some cool-kid clientele and sometimes live music. Recommended.

The Green Room
150-154 Devonshire Street
A laid-back little wine bar, formerly Casablancas, featuring lovely, peaceful acoustic nights every Wednesday. Used to be sexy red, now it’s green, white and bamboo.

The Grapes
80 Trippet Lane
An ordinary pub, but with an upstairs room the size of a teenager's bedroom, where young bands play to their mates and anyone else interested. Arctic Monkeys played their first gig there.

89 Trippet Lane
Another wine bar- good food and a very pleasant place to see the occasional band.

The Fat Cat

23 Alma Street
Highly recommended. An oasis in insalubrious post-industrial surroundings (apart from the Kelham Island Museum next door, which is a gem for fans of enormous savage machinery), The Fat Cat is indie in the sense of "ferociously independent" and offers a vast drinks selection, real fire in winter, astonishingly cheap and largely vegetarian menu, and a resident ghost called Workhouse Mary.

Record Shops

Record Collector
233-235 Fulwood Road, Broomhill
Oh, I really love this place. Take plenty of money. Not that it’s expensive, just that you’ll want stuff wherever you look. A large collection of cds and a separate shop for vinyl next door.

Forever Changes
6 Hickmott Road, Hunters Bar
Large and varied array of records, and you can even shop online.

Rare and Racy
164-166 Devonshire Street.
More of a bookshop really, but this place is fabulous. Really eclectic selection of books and music, and I don’t use that word lightly. The small music room is heavy on jazz, ‘experimental’ and local artists.
Jack’s Records
Division Street
A small emporium for the vinyl connoisseur. You can also get tickets for gigs at the Leadmill and Plug.

Division Street
OK, it’s an ever-expanding chain, but I remember when this branch was a tiny crowded room. Now it’s massive. How can it be so cheap?

Local Bands


Too many up-and-comers to mention, and I’m no expert. Check out the brilliant Long Blondes, Bromhead’s Jacket, Situationists and The Yell – they’re all on myspace.


Showroom Cinema
7 Paternoster Road (opposite the station).
A consistently excellent programme of films in a comfortable, spacious cinema. Also visit the café bar, good lunches and they’re rumoured to do "Jazz Sunday Brunch" every so often.

Main Sheffield photo and The Grapes pub photo ©

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

             sheffield messageboard                   contact us                     myspace page

city index                                                                                                                                     site map







eXTReMe Tracker