Liam O'Shea AKA. Hope Works

Words by Molly McGreevy

The early morning sun usually signals the end of a night at Hope Works, one very special warehouse venue on the outskirts of Sheffield city centre. But today, things are slightly different, people are arriving at 8:30am for CreativeMornings Sheffield, to listen to Liam O’Shea AKA Hope Works talk on #CMCourage.

“Not having a fallout plan is sometimes scary but sometimes a motivator. And here we are today standing in Hope Works, a gun barrel factory turned into a place of community and fun and self-exploration.”

Running a venue was never really part of the plan for Liam, who has been involved in Sheffield’s music scene under various guises since the 90s. He wanted to be a rockstar. An ambition that could transport him away from his upbringing on a Nottingham estate.

First, he picked up a guitar and played in bands, before going solo as a singer-songwriter, following that came projects in hip-hop and jazz and then Liam turned to the decks. Today, as well as running Hope Works, Liam DJs under the alias Lo Shea.

“In my life, I had done lots of things and nothing had really gone anywhere on the surface. Back then, for me ‘going somewhere’ was having money and success,” says Liam, who is honest about struggling with what he deemed as failure and though partying all the time, wrestled with depression, drugs and alcohol. He soon realised it was time to make a change.

In 2009, Liam started another new project – Mixed In Sheffield -  with the aim to explore, reveal and celebrate the diversity of electronic music in Sheffield. From an initial 98 minute mixtape featuring 41 of Sheffield’s electronic artists Mixed in Sheffield grew, became a record label and threw sell out parties at venues across the city. In 2012 Mixed In Sheffield found a permanent home.

“At a time when I had a personal battle I found this place, and I knew it was right. I saw the name Hope Works and I knew it was meant to be. I wanted to include my community in the venue.”

In five years, Hope Works became an integral part of Sheffield’s electronic music community, and in 2017, became the main venue of No Bounds festival. A three-day, city-wide festival of music, art and technology that received rave reviews in the press and put Hope Works on the map globally, linking to similar, larger festivals across Europe.

“Doing No Bounds has been such an eye-opening experience in respect of the opportunity I have here. By giving a platform to people, I see the courage that they have.”

The future is bright for Liam, Hope Works, and the next generation of musicians and artists that the venue provides a platform for. No Bounds will make a return in October 2018, and the venue has some stellar parties planned for the year ahead. But from Liam’s honest and raw account of his story so far, it’s clear it’s taken a lot of courage to be where he is today, and he couldn’t have done it without the support of his community, or learning which projects to let go, and which to pursue.

“Letting go is a scary process. Especially if you’ve defined yourself by that thing for all your life. It is incredibly scary.

“Admitting defeat in something and asking for help has given me more strength and courage than I had on my own. I thought I could do it on my own, but I couldn’t, and realising that gave me more courage than I was born with.”