When I moved back from London to Bournemouth four years ago, I thought the days of watching my favourite haunts and venues swiftly transform into chain stores and swanky restaurants were behind me. Sadly, as it plays out, this is clearly not the case. In London gentrification is very real, and unsurprisingly fuelled by capitalism and commerce the turnover and change happens fast. Where one week there stood a kickass rockabilly bar serving cheap booze and live music every night of the week… the next there is yet another Costa Coffee. It becomes almost standard and expected to have the rug pulled out from under you just as you begin to feel comfortable and so London’s nightlife has all the urgency and flittering fickle nature of startled maybugs.
When I returned to Bournemouth with its clean air, green trees and beautiful sea, it wasn’t long until I began to once again breathe a little easier. I quickly found family and home at The Winchester in the form of The Freeway poets and from there found a bustling hub of music, merriment, abandon, culture and friendship. Some of my greatest works of writing, poetry, short fiction, music and art in all forms, I can directly trace back from vein to artery and at the heart beats The Winchester. Through collaboration, encouragement and platform it has done more for me as an artist that I can truly ever express or probably properly ever repay. My story is not unique either, the value of this venue and cultural hub cannot be expressed in monetary terms. It honestly and truly means so much more than that.
The Winchester is not just another venue. It’s that elusive third place too often lost in modern society. If home is your first and work is the unfortunate second then the third place is somewhere you can go to relax and unwind with great company, cheap drinks and fantastic entertainment. It’s somewhere you can vibe with, a place that will always be serving up something that you can dig.
Don’t let Bournemouth become just another generic nowhere town. There is culture and art, there is personality and a unique flavour and it should be nurtured and encouraged. Please sign this petition and support Louise’ and Mark’s petition. Let the council know that we do have an incredible set of voices and that we will use them. What they have created at The Winchester is a beautiful thing and we cannot let that die if there is anything we can do to help. Donate, organise fundraisers, sign the petition, stay involved.
After you’ve signed the petition please read some quotes, poems and memories from artists, musicians, poets, free spirits and other delightful deviants who have shared their journey. If you have your own story send it into firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add it to the chronicle. Let’s build a wall to be remembered.
“My all time memory will be my first back 2 back set with DJ Cursa on one of the earlier Ghetto Jam nights, smashed it from day one and haven’t looked back(2back) since.
Much love to The Winchester, Mark, Louise and all the next level people I’ve met through association with this awesome venue.” – Stu Lewis (DJ Dafu)
“Walking in was coming home,
Albeit a place I’d never known,
Barefoot on comfy seats,
Backdrop of beautiful verbal beats.
Vegan food and candlelight,
I never will forget that night,
Amongst the incense air and chilled out vibe,
I knew I’d found my tribe.” – Katie Dobson
“The Winchester is my 2nd home, it’s my favourite place for inspiration from artists of all disciplines, without it, a beacon would be lost to the horizon. Its a space that I have performed at on many occasions and it has let me come out of my shell. Its always the best place in town to hear live music, every band on that stage has talent and each has their own sound, it is where all local bands make a name for themselves, without that Bournemouth would lose what is a great claim on emerging artists. Louise and Mark are the best hosts in Bournemouth and to not see their compassion behind that bar would be torture on the soul.” – Chris Wilmoth
“When I arrived in Bournemouth, I had no friends in the area. I joined all kinds of groups, but most of the people I met, on discovering that I was not local, could only ask how long I was going to stay.
All I could think about was, what part of “this is my new home” are people not understanding? Then I discovered a place I now affectionately know as “The Winch”. To be precise, I had met the Freeway Poets.
Over my first couple of months in attendance, soaking up the astonishing wisdom, so beautifully delivered, I discovered two things; Firstly, I discovered that I had spent my entire life chasing the wrong goals with eyes closed.
Secondly, I discovered that nobody cared where I’d come from, how long I was staying, or where I’d go to next, unless it was leaning forward, chin resting on open palms and ears pinned back, listening intently to plans of adventure and uncertainty.
Instead of asking when I’d be leaving, every single person I met under that roof was just appreciative of me being there in that moment, sharing the love.
Now, the twist is that the people who gave us a place to convene, a place to share, and a place to love find themselves unable to provide such a place. It’s not ironic, but simply tragic.
The spirit of The Winch lives on in us all; Everybody who has ever graced ‘that stage’ or supported those who stood upon it, every live band that’s burst onto the scene, every poet, play actor, DJ, MC, and for every drop of sweat they’ve milked from us on that dance floor.
Mark, Louise, and everybody else who has been a cog in the machine that’s churned away over the years, caring more for supporting the arts than lining their own pockets have sweat ten drops for each of our one.
Anybody who has any experience in event organising will testify that nights like this don’t just happen and their dedication to what is important needs to be given a platform for the curtains to rise once more.
There will be plot twists, there will be highs and lows, the occasional deus ex machina, but unless the curtain is allowed to rise on The Winch – Act 2, nobody will know what could have been.
Money can’t save The Winch now; Its unwavering support. Sign the petition, make sure your MP recognises your voice long after they they started blocking your emails.
Be a fucking menace! Save The Winch!” – Aaron Lowney
“I’ve met so many people here I’m proud to call my friends.
So many journeys started here and this is not the end.
This is not goodbye.
This is til we meet again.
Because words can never die once spoken or put down on paper by pen.
This beautiful venue isn’t really the Winchester you see.
The Winchester is you and the Winchester’s me.
It’s Mark and Louise
And the passion they bring.
And wherever you go we will follow,
We’ll dance and we’ll sing.
We’ll perform like before,
Like nothing has changed.
Whether spitting lyrics at freeway,
Or dancing to drum and bass.
And the hip hop we loved here from boogaloo,
To psytrance to live bands to all that you do.
To the great nights here with vegans and henna,
The memories you have given us all.
We will treasure forever.
So please can we raise our glasses to Mark, Louise and all at the Winchester.
We thank you with all our heart,
And wish you all the best in the future. – Luke Parker