Focus on: RiteTrax at Plot 22Posted by: Molly McGreevy
RiteTrax's Dalton Kershaw and Mike Thompson outside Plot 22 on Exchange Street.
The Exchange Street venue giving a voice to DJs, artists and musicians
Two years ago, a new social enterprise was born in Sheffield. A platform for underground creative culture, Rite Trax is part events promotion company, part record label, part creative collective, and as of 2017, has its own venue to call home.
Earlier in the year, Rite Trax moved in to Plot 22. An empty retail unit at the time, the space has now been transformed into a multi-use venue with artists’ studios and an events space, which is often used for gigs and club nights from some of Sheffield’s best underground talent.
Plot 22 is tucked away on Exchange Street, in the Castle Market area of Sheffield. Once a bustling shopping district, the area has been left somewhat unloved for the last couple of decades, but as is often the case in Sheffield, spaces abandoned by most are snapped up by the city’s creatives, the DIYers, and those determined to give a voice to the city’s talent.
RiteTrax was born out of another creative collective for the underground scene, Artificial Constructs, which Mike Thompson started during his time at the University of Sheffield. During an interview with Vibe in 2016, history graduate Mike told us how during a stint in prison for drug offences, he took a business course and learnt about social enterprise. After his release, with support from The Prince’s Trust, for which Rite Trax directors Mike and Adam Seymour are now ambassadors, and £1500 raised through crowdfunding, Mike set up Rite Trax.
The collective’s initial aim was to provide a platform for events and people to learn new skills. Mike’s eventual aim was to get ex-offenders involved, having witnessed a lack of creative encouragement and participation in prison. As Rite Trax grew, so did the aims, and soon Mike and his team were putting on events around the city.
“We were promoting underground music and art that people we knew were doing, then we started putting nights on featuring art, music and poetry,” said Mike.
“We did them regularly and got a bit of a following. We’ve tried to support people who could do with the support, instead of using sound systems and acts that are already well known, we try and build up other people.”
Shefftek at Plot 22. Picture by Northern Wanderer.
RiteTrax had been looking for a space to call their own for a long time, and approached CADS, a Sheffield charity which breathes life into old, underused buildings by turning them into studios and event spaces. CADS had the building at 20 – 22 Exchange Place available, and having received a grant from the School for Social Entrepreneurs, RiteTrax had money in the bank to pay for rent.
“We were looking for a studio space, and CADS brought us here. We didn’t plan to take somewhere like this but we just took it and then decided what to do with it,” said Mike. “We paid our rent until July, with the aim of being self-sustainable by then.”
Downstairs at Plot 22 is an events space, whilst upstairs has been transformed into artists' studios
The team set about transforming the place, and created artists’ studios upstairs and an events space downstairs. Some great artists have moved in upstairs, downstairs has played host to some of the best DIY club nights and gigs Sheffield has seen in a long time, and Plot 22 has become a hub for the city’s underground talent, whether that be artists, DJs, promoters or bands. To showcase the city’s DJ talent, Plot 22 plays host to a live DJ stream every Thursday.
Promoting people who are just starting out is a huge part of the Plot 22 ethos, Mike said: “We’ve always been about providing a platform for new and underground artists, whether that’s through events or giving people opportunities to DJ, we’ve started a live stream earlier in the year for people who want to start DJ and need experience. This has allowed us to bring other promoters in to showcase smaller nights and make sure we’re showcasing the whole breadth of the scene.
“We’ve had doom and metal nights in here but then we’ve had music you’d only hear at illegal raves, proper hard tech, hardcore and gabba, which was well intense but people love it because most venues don’t really like that type of music and we’re up for it.”
Currently in residence at Plot 22, are artists the Underdogs: Solo, Kizdog and Blackgumz, and FSB. Musician HarleyLikesMusic, and photography and film collective DEADIdea Productions. The sound systems affiliated with Plot 22 are Insub Audio and Theta Productions, the venue also works closed with Futurhood AV, a local VJ artist and consultant.
Over the next year, RiteTrax want to throw more events, and there are plans to establish a music studio at Plot 22. For Mike and his team, it’s important to keep giving a voice to the city’s underground artists and musicians. He said: “I don’t think there can be enough spaces like this, it’s really important for the city. It’s great to have variety and choice, it’s really healthy.
“People are eager, once you give someone an opportunity to do something, they do it, so yeah it’s really important. You get so many different people coming through the doors, there’s loads of talent around.”
For the latest event listings like Plot 22 on Facebook.