phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
The Changing Face of Bristol’s Music Scene

The Changing Face of Bristol’s Music Scene

13 March 2018 | Viktoria Roskams

Change is what makes cities. It makes them vibrant, exciting places to live, a foil to sleepy countryside villages. But when it comes to culture, we rely on things staying the same long enough to become rooted, to be designated a crucial must-see or must-do, to cement themselves in a city’s cultural core. It’s why ‘culture’ gets bandied around with words like ‘history’ and ‘tradition’ – it takes time to build up.

A music scene having a changing face is no bad thing. To remain exciting, music relies on new blood, shocks and scandals, and handing over the flame of innovation to future generations. Equally, however, the flame can only flicker in a well-established scene, which is why the recent threats to Bristol’s music venues are an important issue.


Image Credit: Bristol Post

The past couple of years have seen many venues closing down, and many more threatened with closure. Most recently, the Bierkeller closed its doors for good, with the owners of the site planning new, probably residential, developments. This is a blow to the city’s history, as the venue had played host to legendary alternative bands such as The Fall, Pixies, Stone Roses, PJ Harvey, Nirvana, and Lush. Into the new millennium, it remained a high-profile venue, featuring Arctic Monkeys, Biffy Clyro, Sleaford Mods, and Royal Blood. A similar novelty belongs to iconic venue Thekla, the boat moored on the dock near Queen’s Square.  

However, the selling-point of a gig on a boat hasn’t enshrined Thekla as an untouchable part of the city’s culture. In November 2017 the #savethekla campaign was launched on Twitter, as it was reported that residential developments planned nearby meant potential tussles with local council over noise complaints.

If a moored ship isn’t safe from the possibility of extinction, can any onshore venue be? The answer appears to be no – The Fleece, another independent venue whose website boasts past giggers such as Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age, and Muse, and Fiddlers are similarly not immune, with talks of developments near both. They remain open for now – new government laws, passed in January, aim to protect music venues from noise complaints – but it’s clear there’s a sticking-point here. Which is more important to the city: its musical heritage and variety of places to hear live music, or building more and more flats?


Image Credit: Bristol Post

For those fully immersed in the Bristol music scene, potential closures are a big deal. No real scene can be fostered in chain venues that could crop up in any city. Beyond the individuality of bands and genres, venues themselves can have such a wealth of idiosyncrasies – whether that’s being on a boat or just having a particularly good bar – that mean a scene is just as much about its physical location as its music. When in a city it can be easy to feel that you might as well be living anywhere: shopping centres can be near-indistinguishable, and restaurants, cafés, buses, trains, can all be of a monotonous piece. To feel you’re getting to the heart of what makes a city individual, you need to scratch below that surface. If cities like Bristol are left with only cookie-cutter venues, there’s not going to be much below that surface. Culture ought to be a present part of a city, not just part of its history.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Joseph Morpurgo: An Interview

Joseph Morpurgo: An Interview

Joseph Morpurgo, an Edinburgh Fringe regular and three-time Chortle Award winner, is coming back to the stage for his fourth show – Hammerhead. Following past multi-media…

“A homecoming gig”: An Interview with Jimmy Aldridge

“A homecoming gig”: An Interview with Jimmy Aldridge

Up-and-coming folk duo Jimmy and Sid released their latest album, Many a Thousand, earlier this month, and are now embarking on a UK tour with…

The Battle of the Somme Centenary: WW1 Events of Remembrance

The Battle of the Somme Centenary: WW1 Events of Remembrance

Tomorrow (1 July 2018) marks 100 years since the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. During the Somme Offensive, 420,000 British soldiers were killed,…

Bristol’s Hidden Gems: New Year’s Resolutions

Bristol’s Hidden Gems: New Year’s Resolutions

A new year is always the perfect opportunity to make a change in your life, no matter how small. To help out, we’ve put together some…

A Music Lovers Guide to Leeds

A Music Lovers Guide to Leeds

When it comes to thriving and varied music scenes, Leeds is up there with the best of ‘em. The West Yorkshire city has birthed and bought…

Top 5: Halloween Half Term Activities

Top 5: Halloween Half Term Activities

Can you feel it? There’s a chill in the air and the darkness is creeping in earlier each day. Dread washes over you as you realise…

Valhalla Indoor Axe Throwing: An Interview with Luke Ireland

Valhalla Indoor Axe Throwing: An Interview with Luke Ireland

Looking for an alternative to bowling for your birthday? How about giving a spot of axe throwing a go? Valhalla Axe Throwing was set up…

A Weekend Away in Durham

A Weekend Away in Durham

Whether you want to roam the university grounds, eat and drink in some of the most historic buildings the North East has to offer or…

‘Lenin: Leader of the Russian Revolution’ at The North Wall

‘Lenin: Leader of the Russian Revolution’ at The North Wall

The North Wall Arts Centre in Oxford hosts ‘Lenin: Leader of the Russian Revolution’ - an exhibition of photographs and posters drawn from the largely unseen…

Form and Transform: Michael Eden at Waddesdon Manor

Form and Transform: Michael Eden at Waddesdon Manor

Previously having collaborated with the likes of potter and ceramicist Kate Malone, Waddesdon Manor is as notable for its commissions of contemporary artists as it…

Most popular

A Literature Lover’s Guide to Dorset

A Literature Lover’s Guide to Dorset

From Thomas Hardy to Enid Blyton, Lawrence of Arabia to Ian McEwan, many writers have been inspired by and sought solace in the beautiful Dorset countryside.
Go Green!: Environmentally Friendly Bristol

Go Green!: Environmentally Friendly Bristol

This week is Recycling Week, and what better way to observe it than to take part in some environmentally friendly activities in Bristol, the first UK city to be named the European Green Capital back in 2015!
FILM REVIEW: Bliss!

FILM REVIEW: Bliss!

The North of England meets Norway in Bliss! a bizarre tale in which a girl attempts to find her father. Out on VOD channels from 24 September.
“Art and life imitating each other”: An Interview with Richard Twyman

“Art and life imitating each other”: An Interview with Richard Twyman

We chatted to Director Richard Twyman, about English Touring Theatre’s latest production of Othello, which re-analyses the classic play through the lens of religion and spirituality.
“Radical, unconventional and international… much like the artists who lived here”

“Radical, unconventional and international… much like the artists who lived here”

The Bloomsbury Group may be a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean their work and relevance has to be. In this spirit, Charleston House in East Sussex has opened an exhibition space filled with work inspired by the work of the renowned artistic group!
Windsor, Booze and Running Shoes: An Interview with Holly Light

Windsor, Booze and Running Shoes: An Interview with Holly Light

Think a beer (or two) at the finish line would make you run a bit faster? Then the British Beer Run is the event for you! We chatted to Holly Light from AAT Events about the upcoming race in Windsor on 13 October.
The Trocks on Tour!

The Trocks on Tour!

If you’re a fan of RuPaul’s drag race, and also a dance devotee, then you’ll love Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Catch the all-male comedic ballet company as they tour the UK through till November!
Films to look forward to from Venice Film Festival!

Films to look forward to from Venice Film Festival!

Why not check out our summary of what films to (and what not to!) look forward to from the Venice Biennale? With many of the films soon to be streamed on Netflix, you’ll soon be able to get a taste of the world’s oldest film festival right from your sofa!
Gardens just don’t lose their charm for artists!

Gardens just don’t lose their charm for artists!

The Enchanted Garden at Newcastle’s Laing Gallery explores how gardens have been an ongoing inspiration through 100 years of art history. We chatted to curator Amy Barker to learn more about the artists who have flirted with fauna and flora in their work.
Stones Rock! – Top 5 Shingle Beaches in the UK

Stones Rock! – Top 5 Shingle Beaches in the UK

Tomorrow (16 September) is collect rocks day, so why not become a geologist and pick up some pebbles from one of the UK’s Top 5 stone and shingle beaches in our handy guide? We’re sure they will rock your world!

Your inbox deserves a little culture!