Thirty years since Sheffield's legendary Limit club closed its doors

This month marks 30 years since the closure of Sheffield’s legendary Limit venue.

Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 10:29 am

Author Neil Anderson covers its history in his new ‘Take It To The Limit’ and talks about is 1978 launch:

Although The Limit didn’t actually open until punk was well into its second year, the initial idea had been buzzing around in DJ George Webster’s head for years.

He was in a better position than most to make a success of things. Webster already had the following from the city’s Buccaneer and Wapentake Bar.

The Cramps

Punk rock wasn’t being catered for at The Wapentake and there was also that gap in the market for a venue catering for smaller bands following the closure of the Black Swan.

But it takes a lot more than spinning a few discs to open, run and manage a successful venue and that’s where Kevan Johnson came in.

As well as being an ex-policeman, Johnson also knew the licensing trade because his dad had run pubs in Heeley and Woodseats for years.

The Limit passed its afternoon inspection by the fire service with flying colours on March 22, 1978,and prepared to open that night.

Pauline Black

It was actually local club-act Bitter Suite that packed the place on opening night.

Paul Unwin, who was The Limit manager as well as its main DJ,said: “Opening night was a total disaster but the customers wouldn’t have known that.

"We’d come as DJs but we were now asked to be night-club managers.”

Gerry Scanlan, bass player for Bitter

The Human League girls

Suite, said they ended up with an unexpected audience of tradesmen for their soundcheck.

“I can remember arriving at the gig for the sound-check in the afternoon to find joiners and electricians etc still working and the place was opening in a few hours!”

Paul Unwin confirms that Siouxsie and the Banshees appeared soon after along with other bands about to break into the big-time.

“We followed Bitter Suite with the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam & The Ants and The Cramps.

The Photos

“Nobody had ever seen anything like Siouxsie and the Banshees in Sheffield; she’d just got a single in the charts that was Hong Kong Garden and she was at the height of the punk scene then.”

Paul Neilson said the Banshees’ show was one of the club’s finest hours in the early days.

He said: “My favourite show of the first few days was Siouxsie and the Banshees – I’d never seen anything like it, they were on fire and The Limit audience were going totally nuts.

"When they played Hong Kong Garden the audience tore the place apart.”

Andy Smith, Def Leppard’s first roadie, said: “My favourite Limit night wasn't the Lepps funnily enough (too busy working - a road- ie's life never stops).

"No, that'd be Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Siouxsie

"The gang had been to see Thin Lizzy at the City Hall on their 'Thunder and Lightning' tour. Came out and wandered to the 51 stop - only to see a queue outside the Limit.

"Pleased to learn that Siouxsie was on so we saw that too. And I got up for work next day. And I wasn't late.

“And I had change from a tenner. Eee lad, them were t’ days....”

Sheffield’s own band The Push – fronted by Ray Ashcroft, who was to become far better known as an actor starring in The Bill and Emmerdale – were actually the first punk act to perform at The Limit.

They lined up to play the second night (March 23, 1978).

The Limit was into its stride within days and was soon building an enviable reputation for booking bands about to break into the big-time.

Paul Unwin said: “When Adam & The Ants appeared they’d done the Jubilee concert in 1977 but Adam wasn’t famous then.

“He’d had a single out, Deutscher Girls, but it had never been picked up by the radio stations.

"BBC Radio One didn’t know what to do with punk – they didn’t know whether to accept it or wash their hands of it and look for something else.

“If you’d have seen Adam & The Ants then, you’d have realised they were going to be a very, very big band.

"His stage presence was exceptional and although the band didn’t sound that musical they were very talented in what they were doing.”

Taken from ‘Take It To The Limit’ which costs £13.95 and is available from www.dirtystopouts.com

The website also has other merchandise on offer including clothing, posters and prints and there is a ten per cent discount offer on too.

The vision is to enable the universal need to be 'young at heart'. To satisfy and delight retro-loving customers with 100 per cent authentic products and experiences. Why grow up when you can still be a'Dirty Stop Out'?

A club flyer
Siouxsie