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24 September 2014

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DJ at Bristol's Dug Out club (photo: Mark Simmons)
The Dug Out club was on Park Row

Diggin' the Dug Out

by Bryony Jones
For Manchester in the 1990s, it was the Hacienda. For New York in the 1970s, it was Studio 54. And for Bristol in the 1980s it was the Dug Out - the legendary club which became the spiritual, as well as the physical, home of the city's music scene.

For years, the Dug Out, on Park Row, was the centre of the Bristolian music universe, nurturing artists, DJs and bands like the Wild Bunch - later to become Massive Attack - and Roni Size.

And since it closed in 1986, the myths surrounding the club have continued to grow, along with the numbers of people who claim to have been regular visitors back in the day.

"If the Dug Out had stayed open as a virtual club, who would be going there? What music would they be playing?"
David Drake

Now the Dug Out has lent its name to a website which aims to chronicle, capture and celebrate the city's music - and the people who make it - in its past, present and future forms.

The site was the brainchild of writer and 'musical archaeologist' Pete Webb and producer David Drake.

"There are cities which have built museums to their music," explains David. "But that sort of physical thing usually dies on its feet, because it is so hard to capture the vitality and energy of a 'scene' in a museum. Instead we decided to make this an online project.

"So many people - even those who weren't born at the time - know the Dug Out as such a vital part of Bristol's music scene that it has become a sort of metaphor for what Bristol music is all about - the culture clash."

Man with music equipment (photo: Mark Simmons)
It was the centre of the Bristol 'scene'

There's plenty to see - and hear - for those reminiscing about the glory days of Trip-Hop, with an archive of videos, audio clips, flyers and fantastically evocative photographs taken by local snappers Mark Simmons and Kirsty Mackay.

But it's not all about nostalgia - the site looks to the future too, highlighting a cross section of local favourites like Kid Carpet, I Am The Mighty Jungulator and Grand Theft Audio - all part of a new wave of Bristolian tunesmiths set to take the wider music scene by storm.

"We asked ourselves, if the Dug Out had stayed open as a virtual club, who would be going there? What music would they be playing?" says David.

"There is a perception that Bristol music has got stuck, but it hasn't and we wanted to show that it is moving forward.

"The idea is that the site is not just retro, not just a museum piece, but all about NOW."

last updated: 24/06/05
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peter tan
I am the owner of Thai Palace restaurant in Park Row (was formerly the dug out). I am interested in knowing the history of the dugout and perhaps recreate the dugout and revisit its former glory. Please advise.

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