National Centre for Popular Music

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Hallam Union Building of Sheffield
MeetMarket Somewhere over the rainbow...jpg
The National Centre for Popular Music
Former namesNational Centre for Popular Music
Alternative namesThe HUBs
General information
Architectural styleAvant-garde
LocationSheffield, South Yorkshire
AddressPaternoster Row
Coordinates53°22′39″N 1°27′58″W / 53.377466°N 1.466036°W / 53.377466; -1.466036Coordinates: 53°22′39″N 1°27′58″W / 53.377466°N 1.466036°W / 53.377466; -1.466036
Current tenantsSheffield Hallam University Students' Union
CompletedFebruary 1999
Inaugurated1 March 1999
Cost£15 million (Lottery funded by £11m)
OwnerSheffield Hallam University
Technical details
Structural systemStainless steel drums
Design and construction
ArchitectNigel Coates
Architecture firmBranson Coates

The National Centre for Popular Music was a museum in Sheffield, England, for contemporary music and culture, a £15 million project largely funded with contributions from the National Lottery, which opened on 1 March 1999, and closed in June 2000. Just prior to closure BBC Radio 2 held a special gig to prize winners of around 75 people, to see Madness perform live with support from Paul Carrack. This was hosted by Billy Bragg and during the show Ian Dury was beamed in live and was interviewed by Suggs and Billy. Madness played It Must Be Love, My Old Man (Blockheads), One Step Beyond and Lovestruck before catching a train back to London from Sheffield. Suggs was late arriving at Sheffield as he had been at Alton Towers with his family.[citation needed] Various bands played this venue raising money for many charities.[citation needed]

Building design[edit]

The building, designed by Branson Coates following an architectural design competition managed by RIBA Competitions, consists of four giant stainless steel drums, surrounding an atrium area, the upper floor of which has a glazed roof.[1]

Unusual features[edit]

Each of the drums has a rotating turret with a nozzle which is meant to turn with the wind and vent air. On the reverse of this an opening facing into the wind takes inlet air down through wall cavities, being heated or cooled as required. Air is drawn out of the nozzle by buoyancy and wind pressure.[2]


The ground floor contained office space, a shop, a bar, a café and a further exhibition space. Access to this floor was free, with only the top floor forming the museum.

Commercial failure[edit]

High estimates of visitors[edit]

However, the Centre failed to attract enough visitors and cash flow to ensure its viability for its 79 workers – BBC News described the centre as having been "shunned" by visitors, and, despite a £2 million relaunch, the Centre closed for good in 2000. Ticket prices were about £21 for a family of four. It was hoped to attract 400,000 visitors a year. After seven months, 104,000 visitors turned up – mostly out of initial curiosity. At this point on 18 October 1999, the building's owners Music Heritage Ltd, called in PricewaterhouseCoopers to administer the day-to-day running. The company was to be liquidated in that November if administration was not successful. It was saved in the interim although it was owing £1.1m to 200 creditors. The estimates for visitors per year was reduced to 150,000. Martin King, the chief executive who took over from Stuart Rogers, then resigned in January 2000.

Subsequent use of building[edit]

It became a live music venue for a period from July 2001 and then being taken over by Sheffield Hallam University from September 2003, who bought it from Yorkshire Forward for £1.85m in February 2003. It is now the university's Students' Union.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Centre for Popular Music". Architonic. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  2. ^ Anonymous (2002). "Robust design - form follows funk: National Centre for Popular Music, Sheffield". The Architectural Review. 211 (1259 Suppl.): 8–9.

External links[edit]

News items[edit]