Thekla £1,000,000 overhaul

Thekla, the multi-award-winning live music boat venue and club in Bristol’s floating harbour, will be taken into dry dock on Monday, 3 June 2019 for a major, £1m overhaul to secure its future for the next 50 years.

Built in 1958, the boat will have a new, steel offset hull welded into place around the whole of the existing hull. Although Thekla undergoes regular, routine inspection and repair a detailed survey showed that the existing hull is near the end of its life.

Ahead of its overhaul Thekla celebrates its 35th anniversary weekend (Thursday 2 May – Sunday 5 May) with sets including BBC Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq and Drum & Bass star Roni Size. Then, following a night of guilty pop pleasures at ‘Pop Confessional’ on Saturday 1 June, Thekla will be towed into the Albion dry dock nearby where a team of experienced craftsmen will work on the boat for three months.

Thekla will return to its usual position in the harbour in early September 2019 when it will reopen to the public. The Thekla team will announce the exact date of its reopening through its website and social media channels.

“There’s a lot of love for Thekla in Bristol, around the country and worldwide. Both music fans and bands like Florence and the Machine, White Denim, Mumford & Sons, Ellie Goulding and many others who have played there over the years have taken part in some great nights. We’re committed to preserving that heritage and that’s why we’re getting the new hull fitted – we need to make sure that Thekla continues to be a great night out for the next fifty years,” says George Akins of DHP Family, Thekla’s owner.

At over 50 metres in length, Thekla is one of the longest ships in Bristol’s Floating Harbour. Given its size, the majority of the £1m investment will go on the new hull though other improvements and repairs will also take place.

The grade II listed Albion dry dock, located next to the resting place of Brunel’s famous ship the SS Great Britain, was reopened in 2018, allowing maintenance and repair work on large ships to be carried out in the city once again.

Martin Childs of the Albion Dock Company said: We are very pleased to be undertaking works on the Thekla and so secure her long term future in Bristol. Equally, her visit to the Albion Dockyard helps our venture bringing this historic facility back to full time use as a working dry dock.”

Thekla History
Thekla arrived in Bristol in 1983 and has become a much-loved music venue in the city.

Originally a cargo ship, built in Germany in 1958, Thekla carried goods between northern and western European ports before running aground at Gatesend, Norfolk in 1975. She was left rusting away for seven years in the half-abandoned docks of Sunderland, before being purchased by Vivian Stanshall and Ki Longfellow-Stanshall for £15,000.

Thekla entered the Severn river estuary on 4 August 1983 and arrived in the Floating Harbour in Bristol as the ‘Old Profanity Showboat’. She was used as a theatre to showcase music of every sort, including cabaret, comedy, plays, musicals and poetry events. The ship also contained an art gallery.

By early 1986, Ki had become exhausted by the daily running of such a huge venture and, on announcing closure of the ship, a deluge of artists and customers protested and the vessel continued to showcase theatre and bands until August 1986.

Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, THEKLA was taken over and run as an underground nightclub. A refurbishment of the vessel was completed in October 2006 after being purchased by Daybrook House Promotions (now DHP Family). She remains at the moorings in central Bristol where she was first positioned in 1983 and continues to function as a music venue and nightclub.

BBC documentary about the conversion of the Thekla by the Stanshalls in the 1980s

Key dates
1958-07-12
Thekla launched by Büsumer-Schiffswerft W & E Sielaff at Büsum, Schleswig-Holstein
1975-01-01
Ran around in Gatesend, Norfolk
1982-01-01
Purchased by Vivian Stanshall and converted to the Old Profanity Showboat
1984-04-01
Opening night filmed by BBC documentary Omnibus called “The Bristol Showboat Saga ”
1986-08-01
Old Profanity Showboat closed, boat hired/sold to a collection of nightclub operators
2006-08-10
DHP Family purchased Thekla, refurbished her in Albion Dry Dock

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