Can you help re-write the story of the Limit?

Bitter Suite, George Webster, Hong Kong Garden, Human League, Kevan Johnson, Paul Unwin, Siouxsie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Buccaneer, The Limit, The Push, Wapentake, West Street -

Can you help re-write the story of the Limit?

Siouxsie on stage at the Limit
Pictures and stories relating to one of Sheffield’s most iconic clubs are being sought as a local author counts down to the re-launch of a book “that changed everything”. 

Neil Anderson started work on a fully updated version of his ‘Take It To The Limit’ book – his best-selling title that documented the life of the iconic West Street venue -  in 2019 but a personal tragedy meant the project was mothballed.

The fully updated and re-packaged book is now set to be released later in the autumn this year and he’s on the lookout for photos and stories relating to the venue.

He said: “My world stopped turning in 2018/2019 and the 10th anniversary Limit book was one of many projects that was put on hold. But the amazing reaction the original book received when it was first published in 2009 has always stayed with me. In many respects it changed everything.

“It gave me the confidence to develop an entire company dedicated to celebrating retro nightlife via my www.dirtystopouts.com operation.”

West Street’s Limit venue was pivotal to the city's electro chart dominance of the early eighties and helped nurture various local bands that went onto massive success.

Sheffield artists like the Human League, ABC (who performed under their earlier Vice Versa moniker), Cabaret Voltaire and Comsat Angels all played some of their earliest gigs at the venue.

The Limit booked U2 when few other venues would entertain them - 14 punters turned up – and the venue staged the UK debut of the B-52’s.

The venue originally opened in 1978 with Siouxsie and the Banshees being the first national live act to perform. The first local bands to grace the stage were Bitter Suite and the Push. 

Sheffield band The Push

Former Limit manager and DJ Paul Unwin said: “Nobody had ever seen anything like Siouxsie and the Banshees in Sheffield and 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.”

The Limit also hosted the one and only time that city-born rock giants Def Leppard supported Sheffield’s own Human League – it was part of a local band festival in the very early days of the venue.

Though West Street’s legendary Limit didn’t open until punk was well into its second year – the venue truly hit the ground running and gave Sheffield the venue it had been crying out for.

DJ George Webster already had a big following from his time entertaining the crowds at The Buccaneer and Wapentake Bar.

Punk rock wasn’t being catered for at Wapentake Bar and there was a gap in the market for a venue providing a stage for smaller bands following the closure of the renowned Black Swan.

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

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

The pair eventually found potential premises on West Street.

It was a 5,000 square foot area set in the basement of a former shopping precinct with a capacity for around 350.

The idea was well-received locally.

Keith Strong, ‘Nightscene’ reporter in The Star at the time, said: “After a spell in the doldrums Sheffield’s music scene received a boost this week when work began on a rock club that brings echoes of the swinging sixties in the city.”

George Webster was scathing of the dress codes commanded by the city’s mainstream venues – he knew there needed to be an alternative.

He said: “All the clubs are stereotyped. You have got to look as though you are going to a wedding to get in. Kids don’t like that, they like to dress according to the trend.”

The Selector on stage at The Limit

Neil Anderson added: "The Limit was a true one-off and its legacy is still felt as strongly today as it was when it shut for the last time in 1991.

“It was instrumental in Sheffield’s chart dominance of the early 1980s and it was so successful that it even bank-rolled the transformation of the then derelict Sheffield Lyceum into a concert venue.

"The Limit went on to host 13 years of club nights from early punk, mid-eighties goth to early rave and dance."

Neil can be contacted via: neil@dirtystopouts.com