FOR any discerning music production enthusiast, Yellow Arch Studios is synonymous with Richard Hawley, Tom McCrae, Tony Christie and even Duane Eddy.
This autumn, the much celebrated studio will itself be celebrating its 15th anniversary.
And it’s marking the event in an ambitious way - with the opening of a new, 250-capacity venue.
“We don’t know what we’re going to call it yet,” says studio co-director and musician Andy Cook. “We were thinking of calling it ‘the Unseen Room’, because that’s what it is.”
And it’s not hard to see how this ample performance space has come to be ‘unseen’ - Yellow Arch is a miasma of rooms, corridors, church-like spaces and offices. Its modest entrance - a side door in an ex industrial yard - belies its vastness.
“It’s like a playground - there are so many spaces to explore,” says Cook
The new venue will fill a much-needed void in Sheffield’s gigging scene. “There are a lot of bands who come here but they have a very limited choice of venue - at the moment it’s either a 100 capacity room or a 900 capacity venue like the Leadmill.”
This, among other factors, inhibits bands from touring as much as they would like, Cook believes. “It’s very hard to make touring pay when you’re a band these days - many venues don’t support musicians. I’ve been touring for twenty years and it’s not glamorous. More often than not you’re shoved into a grotty broom cupboard with some Tesco sandwiches. When I was touring I always wished we had something to make a cup of tea or coffee with.”
Based on this far-from-desirable life on the road, often in the back of vans, Cook and his colleagues at Yellow Arch, wanted to provide a very different experience for visiting musicians.
“I want it so that when they arrive they’re greeted with a smily face and made to feel comfortable. I want all the staff to be artists, musicians or at least that way inclined, so that the bands and customers feel at home and at ease.”
And while many venues overlook the importance of decor, at Yellow Arch’s yet-to-be-named room, it’s an important factor. Its walls are painted in ambient colours and the space will be filled with tables and chairs, as well as striking lighting. It feels more like a space in its own right, rather than one that’s incidental to a stage.
“We will be having regular art exhibitions and launch nights for artists,” says Cook.
“We’ll be getting in touch with the universities so their final year students can use this as an exhibition space and we are planning on having ‘themed’ decor, which will change every so often.”
The space is quirky and homely. “We wanted somewhere where you could come and chat to your mates before the band is on. Many venues crank up the background music so loud that you can’t have a conversation. As a result, people only go to the venue when the band’s on - they sit in the pub across the road for as long as possible.”
The venue will be fully-licensed. Its bar is already built - from a sycamore tree washed up in the Rover Don during the floods of 2007.
The studio also wants to nurture young talent. “We want this to be a one-stop shop, we can help develop bands in the studio and give them a performance space as well,” says Cook.
And it’s not just about music, either. “We really want this to be an arts centre,” he says.
Indeed, the philosophy that underpins Yellow Arch’s move into live events is not dissimilar to that which led to the establishment of the Leadmill as an arts centre back in 1980.
“We want to make the space appeal to dance groups as well. The stage is reinforced so it can withstand a dance performance.”
Yellow Arch’s venue will open its doors very soon. “I am really excited about it,” says Cook. “I’m always excited about live entertainment.”
At the moment, Yellow Arch is on target to open its doors in around two weeks, only there’s one problem - the doors have yet to be fitted.
Watch this space to find out when Yellow Arch’s new venue has had its doors fitted.