Leicester’s longest-running music venue re-opens.
The Shed has played its part in the lives of many of our local musicians and the fans that have followed them. Many of the guitar players and drummers of today’s Leicester began their musical careers on the stage of The Shed.
After 23 years the venue has now been refurbished and refitted to offer its clientele a modern ambience in which to enjoy music. Even over the few years that I have been going there, The Shed has had little done to it, apart from one year when the layout and staging in the lower room was changed. Even before that, the main room was altered when a new sound desk was built. These were minor alterations compared with the modifications seen by tonight’s audience.
Tonight saw the public opening of the refurbished venue. Even from outside, in Yeoman Street, substantial changes were immediately obvious. A large window now adorns the frontage. Daylight has entered the main room for the first time in well over two decades. In designing the decor, the theme of a garden shed has remained the pivotal; large expanses of walling have been covered with the kind of rough timbering associated with garden huts. Dotted around the rooms are odds and ends that have been cunningly re-purposed. The stage is still where it has always been, though it has been rebuilt and is now adorned with red plush curtains as one might find in many theatres.
The long bar that used to stretch along the stage-left side of the room has gone. Now the bar is where the tables and chairs used to be, beneath the lower end of the ceiling. The sound engineer’s box has been rebuilt. A new sound system has been installed and there are new lights. Behind the stage is a large LED display screen; on it, images of the old shed and movies of its reconstruction played while waiting for the start of the first act.
It is downstairs in the basement, where the changes are most dramatic. Gone are the awful old toilets whose doors ruined the performances of many nights with a constant traffic of people in and out. Having completely removed the toilets, the room is now much larger with its own bar at one end of the room and a slightly raised stage at the other.
The lavatories are now where the office used to be, having an entrance that means customers do not have troop through the middle of a show to use the facilities. The lower bar performance area is now called The Vault stage. The stage is now back where it used to be in the old days to the left of the main entrance door.
The smoking area has had a bit of revamp although the area behind the grills, where the rats feasted on bags of decaying rubbish, has gone. In that area a new building has gone up to house the services for the bar area and a green room for visiting artists.
In the foyer there have been some noticeable improvements. Above the ticket desk there is now a large illuminated panel in which are displayed the names of the principal acts appearing on the night.
Above the entrance doors hang a number of drums which have been made into lampshades.
On a wall there is a framed display containing the broken remains of an electric guitar – said to be the instrument destroyed on stage during the last ever appearance of Leicester band The Heroes. It is surrounded with the large collection of plectrums gathered from bands over the years. In another salutation to the venue’s history, a glass case houses the famous photo of members of Kasabian who, according to myth, once played at the Shed under that band name.
So, all in all, new life has been breathed into the venue, assuring its continuation for several more decades to come, one hopes. Far from having the plastic accoutrements of many modern makeovers, The Shed now boasts style and much that may be called ‘shabby-chic’ with recycled wood, antique chairs and carefully selected retro icons like the collection of very old televisions that is seen in the main room. The accent of the interior designers has been on preserving icons of the building’s past by blending them in with a post-modern décor that is both clean and attractive. Hardly a single item of plastic can be seen anywhere.
Two acts entertained the sold-out attendance tonight. The first being the reincarnation of Preacher and the Bear – now called The Bear – still manned by the same two – The Preacher and The Bear. Now with the augmentation of other musicians.
The headline act – Electric Swing Circus – made an entrance; as the red curtains were drawn the band started to play and an explosion of confetti showered the unsuspecting audience at the front, dropping numerous pieces of paper into their drinks. Foot-tapping rhythms soon filled the crowded auditorium. It was a party atmosphere.
Who liked it?
Nearly everyone I spoke to liked what they saw. Some members of the old guard moaned the loss of the dirty old Shed lovingly remembered from the nineties and noughties. But the refurbishment of the venue was long overdue. It needed to be done. Without it, the place would have died and been buried in the graveyard occupied by the Charlotte. Today’s live music audiences have become accustomed to more; so many of the country’s music venues have disappeared because their owners have been unable to drag them into the twenty-first century. That the Shed now has a bright future ahead of it is something that the folk of Leicester should celebrate.