Edinburgh arts venue The Bongo Club told to quit premises

ONE of Edinburgh’s leading arts venues has been told to quit its university-owned base - a year before its current lease is due to expire - to make way for office accommodation.

The Bongo Club has announced it is looking for a new home just days after it emerged that another music and nightclubbing venue, Cabaret Voltaire, will be closing within weeks.

Other independently-run venues like the Forest Cafe, GRV and the Roxy Art House have also closed in the last year.

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Bosses at Edinburgh University say they want to redevelop the part of its Moray House School of Education that is currently leased out to the arts organisation Out of the Blue, which runs the Bongo Club.

It was forced to relocate to the Holyrood road site in 2003 to make way for building work on the ill-fated Caltongate development, on New Street, which is still to get off the ground.

The Bongo Club, which started running in 1996, has long been a mainstay of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, partly due to its celebrated late-night cabaret shows.

Among the acts to appear at the venue over the years have been The Scissor Sisters, Kasabian, The View, Aphex Twin, KT Tunstall, Aberfeldy, Mark Thomas and Rob Newman.

Thomas said yesterday: “The Bongo Club is part of the artistic DNA of Edinburgh and to lose it would be an act of cultural self-harming.”

Venue manager Ally Hill said the club was hoping to stay in its current home, but had also begun looking for alternatives due to the deadline of mid-September for the termination of the current lease.

He added: “We have basically got seven 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 so far indicate that it has no intention to change its decision.

“We have already had to overcome moving once and we may have to do so again, but I don’t think the property market is any easier than it was the last time. If anything it may be more difficult.”

The university last night said it would be happy to help the Bongo Club find a new home, and insisted it had given extra notice to quit the site.

A spokesman added: “In asking the Bongo Club to vacate the premises it currently rents within Moray House School of Education, we have acted within the terms of our contract.

“In order to assist in the club’s search for a new home, we have given it more notice than we are contractually obliged to provide.

“ 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.

“The move is in line with our long-term development of the Moray House estate and our commitment to providing the best facilities for our students.”