Unearthed from the archives – the photos that shaped Sheffield’s electro-pop generation

Unearthed from the archives – the photos that shaped Sheffield’s electro-pop generation

The Cramps at The Limit - by Pete Hill

Unearthed from the archives - our brand new book about Sheffield’s legendary Limit club includes some of the earliest photos taken by renowned local photographer Pete Hill

In the late ‘70s it was the norm for the more glitzy nightspots to have their own in-house photographer.

From the Sheffield Fiesta to the Hofbräuhaus – you paid your money and you got a professional colour photo a few days later.

It provided regular work for a whole generation of photographers that were happy to spend their evenings in the region’s more upmarket hotspots.

The same thing rarely happened at the more underground venues. That’s why it was so important to have someone like Pete Hill chronicling some of the most ground-breaking gigs the city had ever seen at the newly opened Limit club on West Street – Sheffield’s first dedicated punk venue.

His stunning shots appear in the new ‘Take It To The Limit’ title and provide a rare glimpse of artists – both local and national – playing some of their earliest shows. Pete Hill describes his time spent at the Limit – which opened in 1978 – as a labour of love and appreciates the interest in his work after all this time.

He said: “In a word it was fun. I used to probably go down a couple of times a week. Music and photography were my two passions, and still are. I started out as a professional in 1980, I had an old Little Mesters workshop on Backfields, right in the centre of town. I used to work a lot with lots of the local bands at the time.”

The work of gig photographers is strictly monitored these days – three songs before they’re escorted out by security. It was very different at the Limit.

Pete Hill said: “It must have been a bit strange for the bands, I was always right at the front, so only a few feet from them, big flash going off in their faces. I suppose they were just as keen to be photographed. There tended not to be much stage lighting at the Limit, and as the roof was so low, very uneven, so a lot were taken with flash. In the end the management used to let me in for free in return for prints of the acts.”

Many of his photos ended up in the national music press at the time and his success and tenacity persuaded him to go professional.

Some of his most iconic Limit photos are undoubtably Siouxsie and the Banshees – the first national act to perform at the club. One adorns the book’s front cover.

“I remember Siouxsie Sioux seemed to really play up to the camera though”, said Pete Hill.

Siouxsie at the Banshees at The Limit - by Pete Hill

He, like many, obviously didn’t appreciate the significance of the club or the local scene that was growing around it at the time.

Pete Hill said: “They were great times, though it didn’t seem it back then. The thing to remember is that we were all just kids, trying to make something out of nothing. Sheffield was a pretty grim place in the early 1980s. I don’t think anybody over analysed it, just tried to go for everything they could. I always liked and worked a lot with Vice Versa, we had the same pop music ethic. Me and Steve Singleton used to plan what the perfect pop band should be like.”

They planned well – Vice Versa became ABC.

Vive Versa - By Pete Hill

Four decades on since he took his first shot at the Limit and Pete Hill is one of the region’s most sought-after PR/commercial photographers. He believes his time at the Limit photographing rising music stars stood him in good stead for a future life behind the lens.

He said: “The important thing to realise about one aspect of professional photography is that it’s nothing to do with cameras, it’s to do with people. Now everyone has got a brilliant camera on their phone it has opened up the market to everyone. Whether they will be able to make a living out of it is another matter. As the old adage goes, “It’s not the size of your equipment, it’s what you do with it”.