Thekla in dry dock

Bristol Music Royalty Roni Size and Idles Feature In New Film Revealing What It Took To Save Thekla

A new film has been released by Thekla owners DHP Family featuring never seen before footage of the herculean effort it took to save Thekla.

Last summer, the boat sailed into dry dock to undergo a £1 million renovation to give it a new hull essential to keep the legendary boat afloat in Bristol’s harbour for another 50 years.

Up to 50 workers in the Albion Dockyard battled around the clock seven days a week to give the world-famous party boat a brand new steel hull in record time. A bucket list venue for many touring artists and a platform for local emerging talent, the Thekla is a beloved landmark of Bristolians and tourists alike.

100 tonnes of steel and three tonnes of weld wire later, their mammoth efforts saw Thekla returning in shipshape fashion to its long-term berth in Bristol’s Floating Harbour.

Thekla in dry dock with construction worker

Bristol legend, DJ and producer Roni Size, a regular on the boat, shares in the film what Thekla means to him. “I hope it outlives me. Long may it last.”

Thekla general manager Alex Black said: “A life at sea combined with almost four decades in the music industry had taken its toll on the ship’s hull and it was time to do a little more than just patch it up. Manufacturing and installing the new hull was a huge project and a mammoth undertaking for all involved but it should ensure Thekla’s structural longevity for around 50 years.

“It would be devastating to lose such a prominent venue from the Bristol scene. Like all music venues in the UK, we have a lot of uphill battles to remain operational but fortunately for us the ship’s integrity is no longer one of them.”

Built in 1958, the boat now has 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 was nearing the end of its life.

It’s 62 years since the boat was first constructed for its first use as a German cargo ship, primarily transporting wood around Northern Europe. In 1982, it was picked up in Sunderland by Ki Longfellow-Stanshall and her husband Vivian Stanshall (of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band), restored and then sailed down to Bristol and moored in the spot that it sits today. In the days of the Old Profanity the boat hosted hundreds of theatre, cabaret, comedy and live music shows. Since then the venue has been expanded across two floors and has welcomed some of the best live and club events in Bristol.

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.

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

For more information:
Liz Bee or Steve Houghton
Redbrick Communications
[email protected]
[email protected]
0115 910 1500

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