This week is the Blues Festival week in Gloucester and, as I mentioned in my last blog, it is one of my favourite weeks in Gloucester’s calendar.
We are now just over half way through the week and it has, so far, been brilliant, as predicted: more on that in a future blog.
However, I was unable to attend any of the blues on Monday night due to a prior social engagement in Cheltenham. This was, of course, disappointing, but it allowed me to compare and contrast the week-night scene in the two towns.
Staggering from pub to pub around Gloucester during the evening to catch different bands in different venues it is striking that, although in most cases the pubs themselves are packed and lively, the streets remain resolutely quiet. Tumble weed wafts past as you make your way through the eerily deserted streets.
Meanwhile, over in Cheltenham, it is an entirely different story. This was just a random Monday night: there were no festivals going on in Cheltenham as far as I am aware. But as I made my way to my unfashionably early bus at 11:15pm, the streets were thronged with attractive and boisterous young people making their way between pubs and on to clubs.
So why are the two towns so different?
Well, I think Monday night may be student night, so the attractive young people were no doubt mostly students from the nearby Gloucestershire University. Cheltenham definitely seems to benefit from this more than Gloucester benefits from the college. During the holidays all the students disappear off home and the Cheltenham demographic returns to something more akin to that in Gloucester, but because night-life is more the norm for the town it still tends to be busier.
I believe the main reason for the difference, however, is that Cheltenham’s pubs and clubs are distributed across the town. This means that the whole town is lively and the students get more variety of pubs. In contrast, Gloucester has only two night clubs and they are both located in Eastgate Street, which becomes party central.
This part of the city does tend to see much more life as young people move from bar to bar, but being ghettoised in one corner of the city means that the rest of the pubs fail to benefit from any of that trade and the students and young drinkers lack variety – they pretty much have ‘disco pubs’ or nothing.
It wasn’t always like that: I remember the days of King of Clubs (KCs) in Quay Street, which drove considerable trade to the pubs in Westgate, balanced by Jumpin’ Jacks and Cinderella’s in the east. In those halcyon far-off days the whole city seemed to be much more alive and vibrant.
I think it really is time to do something about this two-tier nightlife in the city; stop talking about ‘quarters’ for this and that and start encouraging pubs, clubs and restaurants to spread throughout the city to engender a healthy, cosmopolitan mix of nightlife and inject some much needed life into the streets.