Thekla, the multi-award-winning live music boat venue and club in Bristol’s floating harbour, is returning home on Monday 9 September following the successful £1m overhaul to secure its future.

Thekla Returns Home After £1m Overhaul

Thekla, the multi-award-winning live music boat venue and club in Bristol’s floating harbour, is returning home on Monday 9 September following the successful £1m overhaul to secure its future.

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.

Thekla has spent the summer in Albion dry dock where a team of experienced craftsmen worked on the boat for three months to carry out essential repairs and refurbishment. While most of the £1m has been spent on the new hull, there is also a new dancefloor in the main room; new flooring in toilets and outside decking.

Thekla is returning to its usual position at East Mud Dock in the harbour on 9 September with the first Pressure student night aboard the ship taking place on 12 September, before funk & soul night Funk The Boat takes place on Friday 13 September. Saturday will see a Breakfast Records takeover with 15 top bands playing across two stages, before the return of Pop Confessional later that night.

The live schedule this autumn kicks off with folk punk band Ferocious Dog on September 15, with Marika Hackman, Pip Blom, Little Simz and Wasuremono among others all lined up before Christmas.

Thekla general manager Alex Black said: “It’s great to be getting our boat back home. The work has gone really well in dry dock and it’s fantastic to think DHP’s investment has safeguarded Thekla’s future for the next 50 years. We’re all excited to be relaunching our live and club nights back in our usual home in East Mud Dock.”

At over 50 metres in length, Thekla is one of the longest ships in Bristol’s Floating Harbour. 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.

Thekla’s live schedule took a three-month break while its popular club nights such as Pressure and Pop Confessional moved to the pop up Faraway Cocktail Club in Bristol city centre over the summer.

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.

Photo credit: David Jeffery-Hughs

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