THEKLA was built in Yard No.185 and launched on 12 July 1958 by Büsumer-Schiffswert W & E Sielaff at Büsum, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany for the Schepers family of Haren/Ems. One of the last riveted ships to be produced (the hulls of metal ships have long been made by welding plates), her hold was lined with Australian red jarrah and she was powered by a 200KW (300 bhp) diesel engine made by Bohn and Kähler, Kiel and was said to be a U-boat engine left over from the Second World War.
Launched as a coastal trading vessel carrying a variety of cargoes between northern and western European ports, particularly timber from ports of the Baltic Sea, THEKLA remained on the ship register of Haren/Ems, passing in ownership from Johann Schepers to Josef Schôning amd then Bernhard Schepers but with no change of name. After running aground at Gatesend, Norfolk, she was left rusting away for seven years in the half-abandoned docks of Sunderland on the eastern coast of England, before being purchased by Vivian Stanshall and Ki Longfellow-Stanshall for £15,000.
THEKLA entered the Severn on 4 August 1983 and arrived in the Floating Harbour in Bristol as the 'Old Profanity Showboat'. She was used as a theatre to showcase music of every sort, including cabaret, comedy, plays, musicals and poetry events. The ship also contained an art gallery.
By early 1986, Ki had become exhausted by the daily running of such a huge venture and, on announcing closure of the ship, a deluge of artists and customers protested and the vessel continued to showcase theatre and bands until August 1986.
Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, THEKLA was taken over and run as an underground nightclub. Work by the artist Banksy can be seen stencilled over the bulkheads inside the club as well as his much larger work on the outside of the hull at the waterline.
A refurbishment of the vessel was completed in October 2006 after being purchased by Daybrook House Promotions. She remains at the moorings in central Bristol where she was first positioned in 1983 and continues to function as a music venue and nightclub.
BBC documentary about the conversion of the Thekla by the Stanskills in the 1980’s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXS6KotKctE
As of June 2019, THEKLA was undergoing a £1million revamp (including a new steel offset hull welded into place around the whole of her existing hull) at the Albion Dry Dock/Dockyard in Bristol, with the aim of her re-opening again to the public in September 2019.
- 1958-07-12 Thekla launched by Büsumer-Schiffswerft W & E Sielaff at Büsum, Schleswig-Holstein
- 1975-01-01 Ran around in Gatesend, Norfolk
- 1982-01-01 Purchased by Vivian Stanshill and converted to the Old Profanity Showboat
- 1984-04-01 Opening night filmed by BBC documentary Omnibus called "The Bristol Showboat Saga "
- 1986-08-01 Old Profanity Showboat closed, boat hired/sold to a collection of nightclub operators
- 2006-08-10 DHP Family purchased Thekla, refurbished her in Albion Dry Dock
- 2006-10-10 Thekla reopened
- 2014-10-10 Banksy Grim Reaper removed and lent to and on show at M Shed Museum. Boat refurbished in Albion Dry Dock during summer
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