The Cargo Ship That Became An Iconic Music Venue


She sailed up the River Avon into Bristol – a rusting trading vessel owned by a pair of creative eccentrics, reports Microsoft Start.


Now, 40 years later, Thekla is a cornerstone of the city’s cultural scene, having gone through multiple identities.

As the venue celebrates its ruby anniversary, those who’ve made her hull their home share their memories.

Thekla was built in 1958 and spent almost two decades as a coastal trading vessel.

However, in the 1970s it was left abandoned for years, half submerged in a Sunderland dock until American novelist Ki Longfellow-Stanshall and her husband, musician Vivian Stanshall, brought it to Bristol, opening it as the Old Profanity Showboat in 1984.

The ship hosted live music, as well as theatre and comedy.

The venue will mark its milestone with a five-day program of events from 1 May, including an exhibition and the launch of a new book containing lesser-known stories about the ship.

Sydney, now living in California, went on to work in a variety of roles onboard the Old Profanity, including chef, bouncer, bartender, and performer.

She describes her time with the ship as “an amazing creative time, full of crazy adventures”.

Sydney remembers Ogden, the ship’s cat, would often steal the limelight.

Sydney said her mother opening The Old Profanity “was one of the most powerful things that she had done in her life”.

The Old Profanity closed in 1986, and the ship was run as a ‘rent-a-nightclub’ in the 1990s and 2000s before being taken over by independent national promoter DHP Family, who still run the venue, in 2006.

The 1990s saw hundreds of DJs pass through, with Radio Caroline even using the ship to broadcast in 1996 and 1997.

Steve Satan worked as a DJ and engineer for the pirate radio station in the North Sea until he and his colleague Ian Palmer found themselves in Bristol wanting to run a radio station.

The crew did two one-month broadcasts (legally), hiring DJs – including Emma B, who went on to present on Radio 1 – and a then-unknown Stephen Merchant.

The anonymous Bristol street artist painted one of his earliest works in his home city on the ship’s hull.

During renovation work in 2014, the image of the Grim Reaper in a boat was removed to preserve it in the M-Shed museum.

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Source: Microsoft Start