The Thekla in Bristol is a familiar sight for people living in the city, and if you’ve went out for a night since the early 80’s in Bristol it’ll have been someone you’ve probably turned up at in whatever state your alcohol tolerance decides is good for you. You’ve possibly even seen a gig there in its long history. In both my spells in living in Bristol in the early/mid 90′s and from 2000 for 17 years, I’ve enjoyed a night at the Thekla from seeing Edwyn Collins turn in a show in the 90’s to drunkenly trying to not fall over last time I went whenever that was?
Basically, the Thekla is part of the fabric that makes Bristol what it is.
However there’s a redevelopment across from the boat at Redcliffe Wharf where private developers promise…
a riverside location to work, live relax and enjoy
Extensive external seating, a high quality public realm, and the proximity to a lively and active waterfront will all contribute to the attractiveness of Redcliffe Wharf as a place to work, live and enjoy.
Except take away the Thekla and you remove part of what makes that area unique, but then again you take the Thekla away and you don’t have any competition for the ”event space” and bars promised by this new development. Ah, ‘but you’re just a cynic’ you may say, but the system has been gamed against the Thekla because when the venue was tested for soundproofing it was their quietest days of the week.
Their main issue with the development’s application is that the sound assessment for it was carried out on a Monday or Tuesday night, when Thekla was not at its busiest or loudest, meaning the soundproofing installed at the new development might not be adequate, making it more likely for people to complain.
Now that’s a dirty trick. It also saves the developers money while getting rid of a problem. Of course Bristol Council will fight the Thekla’s corner as they wouldn’t want somewhere that helps gives the city the image it has to die surely?
So the council is working with the developers. There’s good reason why the people running the Thekla are resigned to the development gaining planning permission and the venue having to close because the council will ensure it happens. Too many people will be making money out of it, and if a vital part of Bristol’s cultural soul is ripped out then so what? The people moving in won’t give a fuck and as far as the developers and council are concerned it is these people who matter. So what if some teenagers won’t get to have fun, or people can go and see a gig when you’ve got a shiny, bland vacuous development probably selling £12 loaves for people to buy.
This sort of gentrification isn’t new, nor is getting rid of venues for redevelopment, but the fact is in cities across the UK it’s one-way traffic in terms of who wins these battles. If Bristol City Council want to turn their city into a bland paradise for people fleeing London then they risk destroying what Bristol is and the spirit that attracted so many people to come, stay and add to the city’s culture rather than replace it with over-priced flats in a tediously cold development.
I’m now back in Glasgow having moved last year from Bristol, and we’re facing the £12 fish supper as the Barras starts its path to gentrification (which threatens the future of the Barrowlands as a venue) but Glasgow, like Bristol needs jobs and housing, and housing that is affordable to people on minimum wage however those in charge of Bristol have decided the city isn’t going to be for those people hence the Thekla’s likely end.
It isn’t all over of course. Public opinion can change things especially if it shames a council and a mayor, so sign this petition, share it and if you live in Bristol write to your councillor, MP and MEP in order to cause as much of a stink as possible and hopefully the Thekla will survive. I’m not optimistic but I want to be proven wrong and just for once, the developers are the ones who have to jolly well fuck off.