Spotlight On...The Bongo Club

Continuing our series profiling Scotland's best nightclubs, we take a look at relaunched Edinburgh favourite, The Bongo Club...

Feature by Nicol J. Craig | 26 Apr 2013

“It’s alive!” Colin Clive’s maniacal cry in James Whale’s Frankenstein pretty much sums up the collective reaction when much-loved Edinburgh institution The Bongo Club announced it was being saved from closure at the end of last year. The city’s nightlife has been somewhat lambasted in recent years and closures of La Belle Angele and the Big Red Door among others had many dreaming up doomsday scenarios for club culture in the capital.

The Bongo Club was thankfully spared such a fate and, having moved to a spruced up new venue, the mainstay nights are back in residence and the artist community has been re-energised by the resurrection. “Bongo is a unique institution and none of us wanted to see it end,” reflects head honcho, Ally Hill. Likewise, the rest of Edinburgh’s artistic community had been begging for its survival – the ‘Save the Bongo’ campaign proved crucial, as did plentiful press coverage and some lease leeway from the University of Edinburgh. The club’s future was finally secured in December of last year. “It had to continue,” says Ally. “The successful public campaign was much bigger than we could ever have hoped for and spurred us on.”

First opening in 1996 on New Street, The Bongo Club really found its feet in its second home, the much loved Moray House on Holyrood Road. The venue’s ethos stems from its ongoing ownership by Drill Hall based arts charity, Out Of The Blue. For Ally, the venue’s independence allows them to “put the sounds of the underground and imaginative aspirations before the mighty dollar, encouraging the community to get involved and use our space to do their own thing.”

Despite supporting all forms of artistic expression, club nights have always been a mainstay of the Bongo, attracting some the finest DJ talent from across the city and beyond. The club has fostered some fruitful long-running relationships with nights such as Messenger Sound System, who have been taking dub reggae music to the capital since 1987. More recently, nights like Xplicit have been a cornerstone of the programme throughout the 00s. Drilling drum ’n’ bass into the Bongo’s walls since 2005, they have been joined by headliners such as Fabio, Grooverider and MC Verse to name a few. Exemplary techno night Substance have also utilised the Bongo for the last half decade, bringing names such as Nathan Fake, Jeff Mills, Boddika & Luke Vibert to the city.

What the Bongo has always supplied though is a steady programme of dedicated residents’ nights catering to a variety of styles. For sure, there have been plenty of big name DJs, but it’s the continual work of residents like Astroboy, Jonny Cashback, Simon Hodge and Wee G that keeps loyal punters coming back. The Bongo Lives! Festival starts at the beginning of May and five consecutive club events, reflecting the dversity of the venue, have been scheduled as part of the series. The Bongo Club has always positioned itself at the forefront of the capital’s club scene and it seems like that will remain the case. Long live the Bongo!


Champion Sound – A blend of dub through to jungle and everything in between, 1 May
No Globe – A playlist of music from across the world, 2 May
Four Corners – Everything, from deep funk and jazz, to hip hop and reggae, 3 May
Big n Bashy – Bassline-heavy journey through reggae, grime, jungle and dubstep, 4 May
Terror 3rd Birthday with Ceephax Acid Crew, Fexomat, Anton Serra & Nico, 5 May