The Red Shed. Wakefield

Tucked away in a far corner of Wakefield, never mind Yorkshire, sits a little red unassuming goldmine of northern culture. The Red Shed, Wakefield Labour Club, has been open since 1966 and has thrived ever since on the industry of its members and those who cherish it most.

I found myself there because Boo Hewerdine, a singer/songwriter, was booked to play its bi-weekly acoustic cabaret night. Boo had played at one of the most memorable gigs of my life at York University, spring 1989, and I thought I’d reacquaint myself with him.

And For just eight quid I got one of the best evenings entertainment I think I’ve ever had.

That wasn’t just down to Boo, who has to be one of the most talented and accomplished, and consistently under rated musicians this country has produced (albeit he is a southerner!) but the Red Shed itself and those in it, give you a welcome you’d be hard pressed to find in most towns and cities across the country.

Seating a maximum of 50 people, and running poetry evenings as well as music sessions, the Red Shed gives meaning to the phrase ‘small, intimate venue’. The welcome from walking into the door is neighbourly from the off and given it’s a CAMRA award winning bar, it doesn’t rely on cheap but cheerful – quality is the name of the game.

The gig itself was warmed up by regulars Dave Hanvey & John (Groll) Gregson, who did an excellent acoustic version of Noel Coward’s ‘There are bad times just around the corner’ – very apt given the election and deficit. This was followed up by a superb rendition of Steve Earle’s ‘Jerusalem’ by another regular, Tony Dargan, which I have to admit was one of the most emotionally charged songs I’ve heard in a long time.

As for Boo himself – seriously, if you like an acoustic set, I defy anyone to go see him and claim they haven’t had a great night. Self-effacing as ever, he said one of his songs had been used five times on film and TV and on every occasion, someone had died, so if we lost anyone from the crowd in the next few minutes, it was his fault. He revealed it was used on Emmerdale when a female Dingle was crushed by a chimney. Touching!

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at Wakefield being the centre of the world – the Red Shed was also the starting point for Channel 4’s Mark Thomas Comedy Product, who trained at Bretton Hall College (now the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and home to a superb collection of Henry Moore’s). Wakefield was also the meeting point for the genius that is The League of Gentlemen, the same writers who brought us the BBC’s award winning Pyschoville last year.

If you get chance check it out the Red Shed – but get in early, it’s maximum capacity of 50 means small and friendly is the way it will always stay and as they would say in Wakey: “there’s nowt wrong wi’that”.

Boo Hewerdine is playing throughout the year and has a new album ‘God Bless the Pretty Things’ – more information at

More information about the Red Shed at

By Stu on May 11, 2010

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