After 37 years, is this the end for Red Tape Studios?
‘It would be a severe loss to the city’
Good afternoon members — and welcome to Thursday’s Tribune, delivered with a chic lack of punctuality due to us waiting for answers from the council.
It was former Sheffield Hallam MP Irvine Patnick who first coined the term the “Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire”. Initially meant as an insult, in the 1980s the name was appropriated by left-wing politicians in the city into a badge of honour. As well as 10p buses and The Leadmill, one of the symbols of that era was Red Tape Studios, the first municipal recording studio anywhere in the UK. Opened by no lesser a double act than The Human League’s Phil Oakey and Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, the studio came to epitomise a Sheffield which stood up against the Thatcherite doctrines of the day. Now, however, its future is under threat. Sam Wichelow reports.
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💷 The BBC report that council tax in Sheffield looks set to rise by 4.99% this year, the highest level permitted without a referendum. An officer’s report says the rise is needed to help to stave off "wholesale closures of services" in the face of a £69-million funding shortfall. According to the County Councils Network, three-quarters of the English councils with social care duties that have published budget details are planning to raise council tax by the same amount. The full council will be asked to vote on the draft budget on Wednesday, 1 March.
🛍️ An astonishing story in The Star by David Walsh relates that Sheffield City Council considered suing New River, the owner of The Moor, for banishing market traders from one of Sheffield’s main shopping streets. Documents acquired via a Freedom of Information request show that lawyers for the council wrote to New River to ask them to maintain an informal agreement to let traders use the area six days a week, but that the company insisted it was reduced to three. The documents say that the authority considered legal action but did not in the end take any. On the days where they are not allowed to use The Moor (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) traders have moved to Moorfoot, where they say takings are down by 75%.
🚴 An excellent update in Now Then on the progress — or lack thereof — of the many active travel schemes that are currently being rolled out by Sheffield City Council. Five of the schemes (one in the city centre, two between Nether Edge and the city centre, one between Darnall and Attercliffe and one between Magna and Tinsley) which were due to be completed next month will not start being built until November at the earliest. The council claim they are still committed to the projects but campaigners fear that some in the Labour Party (including leader Terry Fox) want to soft pedal on the schemes as cycling is seen as “middle-class”.
Things to do
🎻 The Leonore Piano Trio return to the Crucible Playhouse this Saturday, 18 February with more Romantic works for violin, cello and piano. Opening with the dazzling brightness of Haydn, the rich colours of Tchaikovsky follow in two works by the celebrated composer. The Seasons take us on a journey through a year in St Petersburg, while many believe his Piano Trio is the greatest piece of chamber music he wrote, and shows him writing at the peak of his melodic powers. Tickets are £21 (£5 for under-35s and students) and doors open at 7pm.
🎤 On Saturday, 18 and Sunday, 19 February, Jon Richardson brings his latest tour The Knitwit to Sheffield City Hall. The Lancaster-born comedian is a regular on TV shows including 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Cats Countdown, Would I Lie To You, Have I Got News For You and Taskmaster. As ever with Richardson, his latest show expertly mines his own obsessive compulsive disorder and neuroses to great comic effect. Doors open at 7pm and tickets are priced £30.
🥾 The latest Kelham Island and Neepsend walk ventures a little further afield this Sunday, 19 February with a trip to the Rivelin Valley and Walkley. The walk costs £7 and starts from the crucible outside Craft and Dough in Kelham Island. You’ll then catch a tram (for £2, not included in the ticket price) to Malin Bridge before heading up the Rivelin Valley and onto Bolehill where you’ll stop for lunch. After taking in the independent shops of Walkley, you’ll head back to Neepsend via Upperthorpe for a well-deserved drink at the lovely Alder Bar.
After 37 years, is this the end for Red Tape Studios?
By Sam Wichelow
Sheffield City Council has been accused of secretly planning to close the historic Red Tape Studios, whilst denying they are doing so. Staff say they’ve been told the Shoreham Street training hub will close in June and their jobs will transfer to another training centre elsewhere in the city. However, when The Tribune approached Pippa Gawthorpe, one of the studio managers from Sheffield City Council, she denied the studios were closing and told us to contact the press office for further information. The Tribune asked the city council for comment but Gawthorpe’s flat denial of the closure has been the only response so far.
The Tribune has seen an email from Gawthorpe in which she talks about handing over the building to the council's department of property and facilities management. We’ve also seen emails to the council chief executive and human resources from a staff member at the studio asking for urgent clarification of its future. The Tribune understands that those emails remain unanswered. A source at Red Tape described Gawthorpe’s denials to us as “a bare faced lie”.
Further to this, a city council worker told the Tribune they wanted to comment factually but added that they were not getting any straight answers.
The insider at Red Tape said: “She (Gawthorpe) told various members of staff, including me, in person that Red Tape is closing in June. But she’s refused to put anything in writing officially.”
If the studio does close in June, it will bring to an end to nearly four decades of training for young people hoping to gain access to the music industry, including many from the city’s more deprived neighbourhoods. When it opened in December 1986 it was the UK’s first municipal recording and rehearsal studios. Since then, it has given generations of aspiring young musicians and technicians the chance to make a career in the performing arts.
“It’s been there for such a long time and has helped so many young people over the years,” Pulp drummer Nick Banks told us. “It’s sad that councils are being squeezed by Tory cuts. The amount of music that Sheffield has provided to the world is amazing but our leaders always seem to want to shoot the city in the foot.”