Bongo's new beat

Edinburgh club to use Underbelly space outside of the Fringe

Edinburgh’s Bongo Club has been offered a new home – in the space that Underbelly Cowgate occupies during the Fringe.

The alternative arts venue, which is to lose its current home at the end of the year, has struck a deal with the Council to use the space under the Central Library.

However the venue says there are several obstacles still to be overcome, with 'a significant amount of building works' needed to make the space viable for year-round operation.

The Underbelly say it costs £400,000 to set up the Cowgate venue just for the Fringe, as the site does not even have electricity the rest of the year.

The new agreement for the Bongo club to use the site excludes the Fringe period, when it will continue to be run by the Underbelly.

Underbelly director Ed Bartlam told Chortle: 'We've been discussing with the Bongo Club their use of the Underbelly space outside of the Fringe for a number of months and remain incredibly supportive of the plan. We're delighted that they've managed to agree things with the council and think that it's great for Edinburgh's year-round entertainment scene.

'Their licence to manage the building excludes the period of the festival and we will continue to operate and programme the venue during the Fringe as Underbelly. That said, we have discussed with the Bongo Club how we can work together on particular strands of the Fringe programme and include them in our Fringe plans.'

A statement from Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust, which runs the Bongo, said: 'Both The Bongo Club and The Underbelly teams recognise that there are great mutual benefits to be had from operating from the same space, realising the potential of the space all year round.'

The Bongo was to become homeless after its university landlords gave it notice to quit its current home in Moray House. At the time, comic Mark Thomas said the club was 'part of the artistic DNA of Edinburgh and to lose it would be an act of cultural self-harming'.

After the new deal was struck, Edinburgh City Council's Culture and Leisure Convener, Richard Lewis, said: 'This issue has been of considerable concern for the people of Edinburgh and so I’m personally delighted that we’ve been able to find a new home for this iconic institution.'

Bongo Club manager Ally Hill added: 'The support to get this far has been amazing and we thank all our loyal supporters. With their continued encouragement we are convinced we can overcome the final hurdles to make it happen.'

Published: 24 Oct 2012

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