Has the Engine Shed run out of steam?

Before 2006, Lincoln didn’t really have a decent sized venue for music. There was the Drill Hall, SCY and the odd pub with a function room. Smaller bands would come through the city and every now and then there would be a big band play the Castle or the Showground, but ultimately Lincoln didn’t showcase much mainstream music.

If the standard Lincolnian wanted to see their favourite artist, chances are they’d have to travel to Nottingham, Sheffield or Leeds – cities with venues of 1,000 plus capacity that book the biggest and best touring bands. However, this was set to change with the introduction of the Engine Shed.


It’s Lincoln’s major music venue but things aren’t sounding great. Photo: Huseyin Kishi

Opening in September 2006 at a cost of £6 million, the 1,600 capacity venue promised to be a haven for music in Lincoln. The opening night was headlined by Embrace and since then there has been a stream of artists, DJs and comedians walking through its doors including; Gorillaz, Kasabian, Zane Lowe and Russell Howard. Lincoln’s premier club night, Moda, even moved from the function room at SCY to the Engine Shed and has brought some of the biggest names in electro, from Fat Boy Slim to Kissy Sell Out.

Despite the number of big names visiting the venue, the overall amount of gigs is low. At the time of writing there are seven events booked until the end of the year. This includes a DJ set, a tribute band and a comedy show. As such, there are only three actual recording artists playing the premier live events venue in Lincoln – whereas last year Sheffield Corporation, a venue with a smaller capacity, hosted nearly 140 gigs.

The Engine Shed has over 10,000 students and 90,000 locals so there’s definitely an audience.

Instead, these people travel to Rock City in Nottingham which at the time of writing has as many shows in the next nine days as the Engine Shed has booked for the rest of the year.

There is obviously room for more bands to be booked, which they no doubt will, but not enough bands are being booked in advance. Compared to the other local cities, Lincoln is severely lacking. Even Grimsby Auditorium has booked Morrissey. Perhaps more risks need to be taken?

The bulk of the artists booked for the Engine Shed are safe bets at selling out and are more “student friendly”.

There has been the odd coup, the Radio 1 Student Tour and the Gorillaz warm-up show were brilliant examples of the talent Lincoln can attract, Zane Lowe also named the Engine Shed as one of his favourite venues.
It could be an issue of funding and there is simply not enough income to book bands which aren’t guaranteed to sell out instantly, but as the old saying goes, “you have to spend money to make money”. The reason venues such as Rock City, Corporation and Cockpit are doing so well is due to their reputation, which currently the Engine Shed doesn’t have.

It is a really good venue, when you’re at a full capacity gig there’s a great feeling and bands seem to love it, but these moments are too few, and without more bookings being made, Engine Shed’s moment could be over.

One Response to Has the Engine Shed run out of steam?

  1. Scott Pack says:

    Having been a student at Lincoln University for nearly for years now, I have to agree with some of the sentiment expressed in this article. The Engine Shed has always been my favourite venue which has attracted some big names over the years. In relation to the club nights (fever Pitch and Up) I think one of the main problems with the venue is that it is overpriced when compared with other night clubs in Lincoln. Clubs such Ritzys (Superbull) are always packed on a Friday night because they undercut the Engine Shed with cheap drinks offers which the Engine Shed seems unwilling to do on its club nights. I also believe that many of the theme nights at the Engine Shed are poorly planned and seem to be quite repetitive. How for example can a venue that is supposedly for the students of the university justify £5 entry fees plus, when there is a theme advertised but no real difference between that and an ordinary Fever Pitch or Up night? When you combine the overpriced drinks with the high entry fees and a lack of imagination no wonder students are voting with their wallets and going to other venues with cheaper student nights. Personally I would put the problem down to a spineless student union and an out of touch managment. It wouldn’t surprise me if the venue is unworkable in a few years at this rate. When will management and the SU wake up and sort these problems out?