Lockdown has had an impact across every business sector – not least the live music, performance and cinema. Joe Food and Eloise Feilden caught up with a number of Sheffield venues and figureheads to find out how they are planning to navigate the ‘new normal’ when it comes to the entertainment industry ‘Making itself At Home’ again

Aaand … action!

With the Make Yourself at Home campaign all about being cheerleaders for the city re-opening and building confidence, it seems fitting to open a feature about the entertainment industry and nighttime economy with the much-loved Showroom Cinema announcing plans to re-open in September.

Ian Wild, CEO, Showroom Workstation, explained: “Closing our doors has been a tough time and something we never thought we would have to face. We are now looking forwards and have marked Friday 18 September as the date we aim to reopen.

“This date will allow us enough time to properly plan our reopening, welcome back staff and train them on new operating procedures. There are lots of new exciting films scheduled to be released around this time, too, that we can’t wait to share.

“We are currently working on detailed risk assessments for the cinema and bar, which will help us to work out our opening hours and the number of films we can show. Over the summer, we will be making the necessary changes to our building which will allow us to operate as safely as possible, following Government guidance. Making sure our staff, audience, and customers feel safe, relaxed, and enjoy their experience is our utmost priority.

“Of course, like all well-made plans, this date may change. Two months is quite a long time away, and there are still a lot of uncertainties on how the country will look by then, and what position Sheffield and South Yorkshire will be in. We are also eagerly awaiting news from the Government on how we can apply to its £1.57 billion culture grant. We do know that without additional money and support, the Showroom will not be able to continue as we would want.

“To do everything we need to reopen will be expensive and we can’t thank our incredible audience enough for continuing to purchase memberships, buy gift vouchers and donate money, all of which have helped us to start moving forward. There is still a long way to go, but to sit at the heart of Sheffield’s community and culture has and always will be our goal, and we can’t wait to return.”

Elsewhere in Sheffield, the City Grab app has been helping ensure the city’s local independents have been able to deliver to people’s homes and businesses throughout the pandemic. Bringing together an exclusive selection of independent eateries and takeaways, the aim throughout lockdown has been to provide a fairer service and keep money firmly within the local economy.

City have 2,000 drivers on the road, completing 150,000 journeys every week, allowing them to deliver further and faster than their competitors. Going hand-in-hand with the local focus, City Grab charges fairer commission rates to businesses using the app – 50 per cent less compared to typical discounts offered by global food delivery giants – plus the taxi driver receives all the delivery fare, too.

City Grab is all about supporting local businesses, keeping the city’s economy strong, and providing fresh choice from Sheffield food vendors and restaurants.

At time of writing, live music is still out of the spotlight, however, and Nick Simmonite, manager at The Frog and Parrot and chairman for Unight, a Sheffield-based night-time community group, does feel concerned about the scene, which has remained a vital part of the city’s identity for years.

“I get the science behind it: if people have to raise their voice or get closer to each other that increases the risk of transmission, so let’s remove that as a possibility. It’s disappointing, and has and will continue to have a real effect on musicians and artists nationwide. Sheffield has a good clutch of those in the industry – not just bands but lighting technicians, sound engineers and promoters as well.

“There’s a good number of people in this city that make a living from the live scene, and that is going to have to be absent for now. All we can say of this moment is best not screw it up, best keep safe, and let’s make sure that we push through this next few months and make sure our teams and guests are well looked after, so we can look forward to the live scene coming back.”

Sam Feeley, promoter at The Leadmill, agrees.

“I think I could sum it up as challenging. Obviously there are the fears and uncertainty about the future, which I think most people are feeling, but the thing for us has been trying to challenge ourselves creatively to still provide entertainment for people and try to keep some cash flowing in the business to ensure our future. It’s a hugely difficult and confusing time for the live events industry.

“We’ve explored a few different methods, but with the social distancing rules in place our capacity would be reduced to around 48, which isn’t really viable. The other issue is whether the public would be willing to buy tickets to an event in an enclosed space at the minute. Part of the enjoyment of gigs is getting involved, throwing yourself about and really getting into the music, which just isn’t something that can be achieved with social distancing.”

Fortunately, there are ways to help support The Leadmill until they can welcome bands and gig-goers back.

“We’ve been really fortunate so far to receive so many kind donations and while we understand this is a tricky time for everyone, we are certainly still welcoming those donations via our crowdfunder and our website. We also have plenty of merch available on there too, including the last few bits of original dancefloor!”