Music / Thekla

5 things you might not know about the Thekla

By rhys buchanan, Monday Jul 23, 2018

Thekla isn’t just a venue but a Bristol institution. Today it sticks in the minds of bands touring the world and has been responsible for countless memories amongst music fans far and wide.

The team behind the venue decided to celebrate 60 years since the boat was first assembled with a small exhibition. Like anything that’s been around for so long, it’s got a rich history with more than a few secrets.

1. The boat was nearly lost altogether 

Abandoned and unloved for seven years after running aground off the coast of northern England, the Thekla was left half submerged in a derelict English dock in Sunderland. Luckily Ki Longfellow-Stanshall and her husband Vivian Stanshall bought the boat in 1982. They assembled a small, inexperienced crew and sailed it for six days and six nights before reaching their final destination in Bristol’s Floating Harbour.

2. Thekla could well have been operating as a venue today in New York

Under the new ownership of the Stanshalls, The Old Profanity Showboat thrived, hosting some of Britain’s finest performers. The plan was to sail it to New York and do the same on the other side of the Atlantic, but this wasn’t to be as the boat closed its doors in August 1986.

3. Before becoming a venue, the boat was originally a trading vessel 

Thekla was originally built in 1958 for the Schepers family of Haren in Germany. It started life as a coastal trading vessel and carried a variety of cargoes between northern and western European ports, particularly timber from ports of the Baltic Sea.

Banksy’s original Grim Reaper was painted over by the harbourmaster 

In the early noughties, Banksy took to the water and stencilled a piece directly onto the hull of the ship. This was later painted over by the Harbour Master, much to the annoyance of the Thekla’s owners. Being a nice guy, during the ongoing discussions between the owners and harbourmaster, Banksy returned and repainted his Grim Reaper piece. The artwork was removed from the side of the ship a few years back to protect it from the elements and it is now on display in the M Shed.

4. Engine mystery

Rumours about Thekla having an old German U-boat engine have been found to be false, as that specific type of engine has wasn’t built until the 1950s. The boat’s original engine, built by Bohn & Hähler, is still in place today.

5. The evolution of Thekla

Let’s see how the boat and its surroundings have changed over the years:

Feeling inspired? Book show tickets for the birthday boat at

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