I will go down with this ship – social saving Thekla
Thekla, the iconic live music venue and club in Bristol’s floating harbour, is facing an ongoing fight for survival due to nearby housing developments.
Just days before the planning committee was due to meet to make its decision about the new residential development, DHP Family, owners of the Thekla, turned to Redbrick to shine a light on the imminent threat and galvanise popular support. Across the UK an estimated 35 per cent of grassroots music venues closed down between 2007 and 2015. Many were due to noise complaints from the residents of newly built flats. So, word needed to get out there quickly in order to raise awareness of the crisis in hand.
Within hours we had media all over the story. These include influential broadcasters at BBC 6 Music; key industry titles Music Week, Live UK, Complete Music Update, Access All Areas, IQ and Pollstar; right through to music press such as Line of Best Fit, Kerrang! and NME.
In Bristol itself, Thekla GM Alex Black did string after string of interviews for BBC Points West; BBC Radio Bristol, Native FM, Bristol Cable, The Tab, Bristol 247, Bristol 365 and ITV West Country. We also secured ongoing support from Bristol Post. To date we have achieved more than 70 pieces of coverage and become part of a national conversation.
As the news spread social media went crazy. Within two hours of launching the hashtag #SaveThekla more than 800 people retweeted the message from the famous venue. Among those were a wealth of musicians including Wheatus, Two Door Cinema Club, Reverend & The Makers and Kate Nash.
As well as raising awareness of the threat to the Thekla, the campaign helped inform the urgent need to address the planning laws. Within a few weeks Parliament introduced ‘Agent of Change’, a principle which safeguards the rights of existing music venues to put the onus on the developer to ensure proper soundproofing. The #SaveThekla campaign was put forward by MPs as an example of the problems facing music venues.
While the fight to save Thekla continues with the development given the green light, the impact of the joint traditional and social media campaign has won support among key stakeholders. Among those are the Music Venue Trust, Musician’s Union; Night-Time Industries Association; Mayor of Bristol Martin Rees; and MPs Kerry McCarthy and Thangam Debonnaire. All adding to the public pressure on the developer. It was surely a factor in the planners instructing the developer to carry out a new and more comprehensive noise survey to ensure the right level of soundproofing goes in.
The fight goes on…