Saturday October 28, 1995. A coach filled with more than 40 journalists from across the UK is making its way through Sheffield.
They are here to experience the city’s nightlife which, thanks to a series of new club openings, is fast being recognised as one of the most exciting in the country.
“The idea was to take them to five or six different places,” remembers the organiser today. “But by the time we left the second we’d already lost half of them.
“By the end of the night there were only a handful of people left on the coach. We never saw most again – but every one wrote phenomenal, gushing things about the scene here.”
Thus, Sheffield’s Nineties reputation as a party capital was established.
Now a new book charts the rise of the pubs and clubs (and the odd police raid for drugs) which put the city on the after dark map.
Dirty Stop Outs Guide To 90s Sheffield by (who else?) Neil Anderson guides readers through both the mega venues and the niche nights. It recalls everything from the new year’s eve when revellers flew in from New York City to sample the delights of Gatecrasher, in Matilda Street, to the evening in 1999 when David and Victoria Beckham could be seen getting their shoes sticky at The Leadmill, in Leadmill Road. They were there to watch Mel C perform.
“This was a phenomenal time to be young in Sheffield,” says Neil, who has produced books covering the city’s changing after dark scenes since the Fifties. “By the middle of the decade it seemed a new club or pub was opening every week. I remember we had a European-wide conference here in 1996 looking into the economic and social advantages of creating a 24-hour-city. The only problem was the delegates – managers, town planners, academics, those sort of people – enjoyed the night life so much, they had to cancel the morning session the next day because no-one turned up.”
It was all a far cry from the previous decade.
When the 1,200-capacity Republic opened its doors in 1995, it was the first new nightclub here in 12 years. And, despite its own failure – it went bankrupt within three months – it led the way for a glut of others to try their luck.
They included Gatecrasher (set up in the old Republic building), Pulse and Club Wow out in the East End, Corporation (then in Bank Street but still thriving now in Milton Street); The Roundhouse under Ponds Forge; Capitol in Matilda Street and all night venue Niche, then in Charter Row. The City Hall started putting on club nights while old favourites like The Leadmill continued to thrive.
“Whatever music was your bag, you could find it here – from house to indie, dance to death metal,” says Neil, 47, of Millhouses. “There was somewhere to cater for everyone.”
And the night-time economy continued to thrive, he says, well into the new millennium.
“We still have great venues in Sheffield and the city is still renowned as an incredible night out,” he says. “I think that can be traced back to this period. That’s when the ball started rolling.”
Dirty Stop Outs Guide To 90s Sheffield, published by ACM Retro, is available in The Star shop at £12.95.