With the four-month stay of execution from their original eviction date commencing this month, Edinburgh’s Bongo Club has until January to find a new home. They’ve been here before, of course, nearly a decade ago when their original home above the former New Street bus garage – later demolished for development – became no longer tenable, but this time the notice to quit served on the popular independent club and music venue’s Holyrood Road premises by its landlords Edinburgh University has been totemic of a wider struggle to just keep going experienced by many of the city’s underground and alternative venues.
Those of us who have watched the struggles of the Bongo and the Forest Café in particular can’t help but observe the odds seem to have been stacked against their survival.
A solution for the Bongo might be at hand, though, about which manager Ally Hill seems cautiously optimistic. Keen to stress that it’s by no means a done deal and that other options are being explored, he still believes that relocation to popular Fringe venue the Underbelly, on the Cowgate, is the most likely outcome.
“The council have current tenants (Underbelly) once a year,” he cautions, “so it requires negotiation with them both. Plus the building requires a lot of work, and Edinburgh Central Library, who have control over the space, also have long-term plans for it (for a literature centre). It’s a complex picture.”
At least this way the Bongo would live on, the council would see 11 months’ extra rent on the site and everyone with a vested interest in it, from the Underbelly to the City Library above, will know it’s being maintained to a certain level.
It seems such an obvious and beneficial plan that it’s to be hoped no legal or logistical veto can be found to trip it up, because the fierce survival instinct which drives Edinburgh’s small but essential underground scene has surely earned itself a break or two.