Though Olga Marshall sadly passed in 2019, she’ll be forever remembered for her years as matriarch of the city’s hardest rocking cellar bar. A brand new book, the ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to Sheffield – Wapentake Edition’, is set to lift the lid on her amazing life and the story of the bar she ran from the early 1970s to the late 1990s.
Olga Marshall was always an unlikely figurehead for the Newcastle Brown drinking, heavy metal listening bunch of motorbike riding aficionados that frequented the venue she fronted for nearly a quarter of a century.
Her CV was hardly made for the upper echelons of the heavy metal scene. Always impeccably dressed without a hint of the scene’s trademark denim and leather - she was already a mother of four by 1972, she didn’t smoke and she rarely touched alcohol.
Olga Marshall’s name, for many at least, will be forever associated with the Wapentake – the sprawling cellar bar that welcomed generations of rockers.
But her publican-style reign spanned far more than the venue that sat under the Grosvenor House Hotel. She actually rose to prominence in the mid-1960s at the nearby Buccaneer which stood on Leopold Street under the long gone Grand Hotel. She started there way back in 1964 and ended up managing it. It was a formidable operation with a die-hard clientele.
When it shut its customers were devastated. Olga wasn’t out of the limelight for long though. She was given the job of managing the nearby Wapentake which, at that time, was more geared to providing lunches for shoppers.
It didn’t stay that way for long. DJ George Webster – who built a massive following at the Buccaneer - was soon spinning the discs at the Wapentake with the likes of Paul Unwin (they eventually moved to the Limit which George opened with Kevan Johnson) and the rock crowd turned up in their droves.
A fledgling local rock act called Def Leppard were regulars – they played one of their earliest gigs under Olga’s watch.
Many would say their return – they played an acoustic set in front of the world’s press at the Wapentake in 1995 – was Olga’s finest hour.
The bar first came to national prominence in 1980.
The Guardian did a massive expose on the venue.
Reporter Mary Harron said: “The Wapentake is a modern pub in the centre of Sheffield, as anonymous as any other, but in the evenings it is like
a secret clubhouse. The regulars are nearly all in their late teens or early twenties, and they come for one reason: to hear the heavy metal records that the resident DJ plays all night at ear- shattering volume.
“Subtlety has no place in heavy metal. Critics have called it the worst form of rock music ever invented, but no form of rock music ever invented inspires such passionately devoted fans; the success of heavy metal is the phenomenon of the year in British rock.
“Heavy metal has been, and probably always will be, strongest in bleak industrial towns. Sheffield is one of those places where it never really went away: the Wapentake has been playing the same music since 1973. Now Sheffield has its local heavy metal heroes. A group of teenagers formed a group called Def Leppard there two years ago and ended up in the charts.”
The Wapentake regular quoted in the piece said the band had already fallen out of favour.
He said: “They’re a Sheffield band but they’ve just grown too big. They’ve sold
out. Well they’ve gone to America, haven’t they?” He signs off by saying the band would never be playing the Wapentake again.
He was wrong - they returned 15 years later.
They were still very much in favour. It was the hottest ticket in town.
Now the name of Olga Marshall and the legendary Wapentake she managed is the subject of a new book – the ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to Sheffield – Wapentake Edition’.
Author Neil Anderson said: “I must admit I was taken aback by the interest and the amount of people that messaged me with their own memories. It never stopped!
“Rockers, punks, bikers, goths – everyone found a home at the Wapentake. I was privileged to get to know Olga well over the years and what she achieved deserves to be celebrated.”
- ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to Sheffield – Wapentake Edition’ can be pre-ordered now £19.95 at dirtystopouts.com