Richard Hawley: When they asked me to use my songs in Ridley, I told them to fuck off

Have you met?

Adrian came to Sheffield for the doc fest and we got really pissed off. He had been taken to a shitty wine bar. I’d rather eat my own shit than go somewhere like that, so I said, gotta show you the real pubs in Sheffield. I took him to Fagan’s and the Grapes, those pubs where I’ve been drinking for almost 40 years. And he talked about the songs from such a unique perspective. He wasn’t swimming in the shallow end, you know?

You haven’t seen the show yet, but have you ever heard his version of Coles Corner, As The Dawn Breaks and Open Up The Door?

He sent them to me. And he was bricking it. It was quite funny. I have enough film and TV experience to know they have to edit them sometimes, but he did a great job. I wrote these songs for entirely different reasons, but you have to be brave and give up what you’re doing to someone else. It can be really instructive.

The original version of Coles Corner by Richard Hawley

In the series, a concert hall is a real lifeline for the character of Adrian Dunbar. You’re fighting to save the Leadmill right now, aren’t you?

I’ve been playing there since I was 15 or 16. Phil Mills, who owns the Leadmill, told me that I was the musician who had played there the most by far. Thinking about all the times I’ve been there and it’s mental. The extent of the things I’ve done there. Before we start talking about locations, we need to talk about music as a concept. It is not as vital as food, shelter, oxygen and water. But it’s the one thing off that list for me, and I think for a lot of people it’s vital. Hearing a beautiful piece of music that moves you is a vital part of the human experience. To hear it in a nice venue, a great place like the Leadmill, is just amazing.

I was lucky to have this experience as a bettor and to play on stage. So to see us stripped of these places because of the current situation with these bastards in power is infuriating. Because they will be gone. History tells us that any government, no matter how bad, will eventually fall. Which gives me some hope.

What is the situation?

The way the Leadmill is in this situation is morally repugnant to me. That someone could buy the land below you, kick you out of the business you’ve built for over 40 years, and not only that, but steal your business? It is false with a capital letter FALSE. If they’re okay, what’s the next step? They are predators.

And once it’s gone, it’s gone…

Watching beautiful things disappear under the callous and heartless stamp of corporate bullshit is heartbreaking. Some things can’t be bought. That’s why I’ve played at the Leadmill with so many amazing people who have chosen to come and share their love. Our Jarv, Jarvis Cocker, who needs no introduction, he came and we tore him apart, Rebecca Taylor [aka Self Esteem] is a phenomenal force, Pete [McKee] – we lived together for years, he painted while I wrote songs and Helen Sharman, who went to space! And she’s from fucking Grenoside.

So is there any hope of saving the Leadmill?

I researched this and they fled to other cities. But they don’t realize who they are dealing with. Sheffield is a different place. Everyone in this town knows that if that happens, anyone who crosses the threshold is a collaborator. There’s one thing left in this town that many places don’t exist called a goddamn moral compass. People won’t go. Because the Leadmill is loved. He has shaped so many of our lives. It’s not just a place to go drink a fucking beer and piss off a wall. It’s much more than that. I don’t think I could be more passionate if I tried.

Ridley airs Sunday nights on ITV

Sign the petition to save the Leadmill here

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Grace D. Erickson