The Bongo Club is a integral part of the vibrant music and arts scene in Scotland's capital city and as such should be protected. It's threatened closure is the latest in a long line of closure of independent music and arts venues leaving Edinburgh without sufficient provision in this regard.
Despite being a beautiful, blossoming city of international renown and appeal that hosts the biggest arts festival in the world, Edinburgh’s all year round independent music and arts venues are few and far between.
At the heart of this scene since 1996, The Bongo Club is a nightclub, gig venue and all-round artistic hub with a street-level-headed attitude and an international reputation. It is truly independent, as the performance venue of local arts charity Out Of The Blue, which has an established track record as a catalyst for creativity in Edinburgh. This has allowed The Bongo Club to put the sounds of the underground and imaginative aspirations before the mighty dollar, encouraging the community to get involved and The Bongo Club to do their own thing. A long standing stalwart of the Edinburgh Fringe with a list of guests that reads like a ‘who’s who’ of cultural alternatives, the loss of this venue would be of real detriment to the city.
However this could all too soon be the reality; its landlords (amongst the city’s biggest and certainly the biggest host to festival venues) Edinburgh University have given The Bongo Club notice to quit. This notice terminates the lease a whole year in advance of the agreed period.
To end the lease at this point jeopardises the work that has established Out Of The Blue and The Bongo Club as vital Edinburgh institutions whose value is recognised and supported by The Scottish Government, Edinburgh City Council, Creative Scotland and many other partners. To highlight the relationship with the University; of the 67,795 audience members who attended the Bongo Club in 2011, at least 20,000 were Edinburgh University students. The Club has hosted events by over 100 different University societies, charities and theatre companies. As Edinburgh University Rector Iain Macwhirter says;
"I cannot believe that it is beyond the wit of Edinburgh University to find some accommodation for this highly successful and groundbreaking community venture, which has done much to strengthen links with the ordinary people of Edinburgh - the people who pay for the university through their taxes. The university has a truly vast estate of buildings and surely some corner can be found. I say: 'Save the Bongo'."
We have 6 months to ensure that this famous Edinburgh institution continues to flourish and protect the vitality of the city. The preferred option is for the University to acknowledge the value of The Bongo Club and to reverse its decision. Negotiations between the management of The Bongo Club and the University currently indicate that the University have no intention to change their decision.
The situation is typically well summed up by one of The Bongo Club’s perennial performers, broadcaster and comedian Mark Thomas;
"The Bongo Club is a rare and wonderful thing, a club that encourages the best of its local artistic community. During the Fringe it is a venue that works to promote new and exciting work that attracts visitors and locals alike AND provides genuinely inspiring line ups and shows at properly affordable prices. It has an ethos of experimentation and discovery and accessibility that is unique. It is part of the artistic DNA of Edinburgh and to lose it would be an act of cultural self harming. "