Bongo Club faces eviction

Feb 7 2012 | By More

Landlord gives notice to quite Moray House in September

By Thom Dibdin

Edinburgh’s Bongo Club is under notice of closure as its landlords, Edinburgh University, plan to terminate its lease and transform the venue into office accommodation.

Established in 1995 at the old bus depot on New Street as part of the Out of the Blue arts collective, the Bongo moved into Moray House on Holyrood road in 2003. It has been a regular Fringe venue since its foundation, hosting a range of theatre, comedy and late night cabaret events.

Venue Manager Ally Hill said: “We have been issued with a notice to quit in September, a year earlier than our lease, but we are trying to get them to change their minds.

“This year’s fringe will go ahead, although it may well be our final party. We are looking at alternative premises, whether it is lease or purchase option with Out of the Blue – we are just looking at all options.”

The news comes as three other independent venues, the GRV, the Forest Cafe and the Roxy Art House, have all closed since last August, when their landlord, the University Settlement went into liquidation. The Moray House space was already a student music venue of many years standing, when it was taken over by the Bongo.

The venue is now to be rebuilt internally to form new office accommodation as part of the Edinburgh University’s development of its Moray House estate.

According to a statement from Edinburgh University: “The space in Moray House will be used to create a new home for our Office of Lifelong Learning, which serves more than 15,000 community education students a year.”

Hill points out that the Bongo Club already provides strong service to Edinburgh University students, as well as having the support of The Scottish Government, Edinburgh City Council and Creative Scotland amongst other partners.

He said: “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.”

The Bongo is best known as a live music and clubbing venue, but has also made a name for itself as a place where experimentation in performance can take place. The list of those who have performed there reads like a who’s who of the alternative and underground music scene.

The rosta just starts with the likes of The Dickies, The Rezillos, Shooglenifty, KT Tunstall, Camille O’Sullivan, The Scissor Sisters, Kasabian and A Certain Ratio; Aphex Twin, Gilles Peterson, Basement Jaxx, Kevin Saunderson, Plaid and  David Holmes; The Skatelites, Jah Shaka, Sugar Minott, Zion Train, Yellowman, Jerry Dammers, Mad Professor and Asian Dub Foundation.

Reacting to the news, Bongo Club regular, broadcaster and comedian Mark Thomas said: “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.”

An online petition against the closure is here:

Bongo website:

Bongo Facebook page:


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Comments (2)

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  1. Barry Graham says:

    I’m sorry to hear this. I performed at the Bongo Club when it first opened at Out of the Blue at the Fringe in 1995 (not 1996; I know this because I left Scotland a few weeks later, and that was in 1995). I was always happy to hear that it had kept going.

  2. Thom Dibdin says:

    Thanks Barry – I’ll change that!