The Boardwalk: Memories of lost Sheffield club live on

The Boardwalk in Sheffield closed eight years ago.
The Boardwalk in Sheffield closed eight years ago.

The former Boardwalk music venue in Sheffield is still being honoured – eight years after it closed.

Music promoter Chris Wilson, who put on bands there, was delighted to be told that one of the seminar rooms at the prestigious three-day Music Venue Trust event in London was being called the Boardwalk.

Chris Wilson in his days at The Boardwalk.

Chris Wilson in his days at The Boardwalk.

“I think Sheffield should be very proud,” he says. “The MVT is a highly respected charity whose patrons include Paul McCartney and KT Tunstall. It was set up in 2014 and acts to protect and improve grassroots music venues.

“Places like the Boardwalk have played an important role in the development of British music for many years by providing a platform for artists to develop their music and performance skills. Their survival is crucial for ensuring that successful artists continue to emerge.”

Once the Black Swan, and later nicknamed the Mucky Duck, the Boardwalk – at the corner of Snig Hill and Bank Street – closed as a live music venue in November 2010. It reopened last month as a drum and bass club called Bassbox, operating on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Chris, who is a member of the Music Venue Alliance, says the closure of The Boardwalk over lease renewal issues is ‘still a sore point’. He had spent nearly 15 years at the site.

Joe Cocker made a triumphant return to the Black Swan - later The Boardwalk - on November 13 1968.

Joe Cocker made a triumphant return to the Black Swan - later The Boardwalk - on November 13 1968.

“We had some amazing, internationally-recognised artists appearing at the Boardwalk, but I always reserved at least two nights a week for new or breaking talent and many of those artists went on to bigger things - Arctic Monkeys, Seasick Steve, David Gray and Kings Of Leon to name a few.

“To get a nod for the team’s efforts from the MVT is an honour and I think Sheffield should be very proud.”

Beverly Whitrick, strategic director of the MVT, says: “As one of the iconic lost music venues in the UK we absolutely consider the Boardwalk to have been of key importance to grassroots music.”

Chris, who has spent 30 years in the music industry and now promotes concerts at The Greystones, adds: “There’s hardly a week goes by without somebody asking me when the Boardwalk is going to reopen as a live music venue. I don’t think they have any idea how difficult it would be. They would need very deep pockets and good contacts in the business.

Arctic Monkeys in 2005 - the band played at The Boardwalk and singer Alex Turner worked there.

Arctic Monkeys in 2005 - the band played at The Boardwalk and singer Alex Turner worked there.

“I am proud of what was achieved by a dedicated team when the Boardwalk was a live music venue. We were voted the fourth most legendary venue in the world by one music magazine just months before we left. It was a pleasant surprise to be up there with CBGB in New York, the Hollywood Bowl and the Fillmore - quite an achievement.”

Chris says too many live music venues are now closing because of ‘huge’ funding problems. “The UK lost going on for 40 per cent of its grassroots venues between 2007 and 2015, which is crazy when you consider the music industry contributed over £4 billion to the UK economy in 2015. A good venue that supports breaking artists surely has just as much right to be considered culturally important as much as a theatre when it comes to funding? They employ local people, and I think I’m right in saying the creative industry is the fastest growing sector in the UK. They bring people into city centres and they will use the restaurants, bars and hotels.”

Groups such as Status Quo, Dr Feelgood and Mungo Jerry graced the stage at the Black Swan - but the late Joe Cocker was the act most closely associated with the venue. In 1968, the Crookes-born singer was booked for a momentous hometown show when his cover of the Beatles song With a Little Help from My Friends had just gone to number one. The Clash also made their live debut at the club in 1976.