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Lifting the lid on the secret best nights out in Gloucester

Act 1. ‘There’s nothing going on in Gloucester’

Gloucester… is a dump.

At least, that’s what Google’s autocomplete will tell you if you start typing in ‘Gloucester is…’

In a 2016 survey, students at the University of Gloucestershire were asked to name their single favourite thing about the city. The overwhelmingly top answer, the runaway leader by a mile, was…’NOTHING’.

(And their second favourite thing was that Gloucester had ‘good transport links’ – i.e. ‘ways to get out of here to somewhere else’… 😬)

54% of students in a 2016 survey said their one favourite thing about Gloucester was…NOTHING.

Gloucester has been officially declared a ‘cultural cold spot’ – and, if you walk through the city centre after about 6pm, you might be inclined to agree with that: the high street looks almost deserted pretty much every weeknight.

AND YET…

Act 2. Absolutely incredible, brilliant, magical, one-of-a-kind things are happening in Gloucester

Last year, I went to the All Nations Community Centre for the first time.

Round the back of an industrial estate car park, tucked away off the side of a dual carriageway, next to the railway line, with no signs or even lights to give you any hints of life, I walked up to possibly the most unassuming building you can imagine. If my phone map hadn’t been insistent that I was in the right place, I would’ve turned around and left, because surely nothing was happening here.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The instant you walked in, it was just…awesome. Electric. Alive. Full of the buzz of conversation and the smell of curry. There’s a game of dominoes going on in one corner, people stood eating freshly-cooked dinner off paper plates in another, friends greeting each other at the door or bustling to get drinks at the bar – and in the middle of it all, a little troupe of dancers going through some pretty advanced-looking warmup moves?!

I was there, along with maybe 80 other people, for a ‘Scratch Night‘ – a chance to see artists/actors/dancers/performers honing their work before it’s put on full, final, public release. After some beer and curry, we all went through from the buzzing bar to the dark main hall. I took my seat, not entirely sure what to expect… and then I got to watch some literally jaw-droppingly brilliant dance.

These were some of the country’s best contemporary performers and choreographers, who’d travelled up from London, from all over the place in fact, to come and do a 20-minute bit in this so-called ‘cultural cold spot’. And it was spectacular. You know when you can feel an atmosphere in a room? Everyone in that room was enthralled by what we were seeing. You didn’t want it to end!

Of course, it had to at some point. And, when it did, the whole room burst into cheering applause, up on their feet.

And then? Then EVERYONE danced.

(That is actual footage from that Scratch Night. It is the best GIF on the entire internet. It never, ever fails to make me smile.)

The whole night is one of my favourite memories of all time.

In fact, several of my all-time favourite memories have come through my time at Strike A Light – and I’ve only worked here for 1 year out of my 36 on the planet so far!

There was the thumping party on the car park roof, with MCs rapping to the backing of a full-on live orchestra (?!) as the sun went down…

There was the gentle, quiet magic of ‘Man on the Moon‘ – listening, rapt, to Keisha Thompson weave a fragile, funny, sad story in achingly gorgeous sentences. There was the fascinating oddness of hearing your own small talk played back to you through a date-in-headphones at Binaural Dinner Date. There was sitting on tiny plastic primary school chairs with a crew of award-winning beatboxers as they ate KFC and told tales of estate life in the middle of Matson.

And that’s without even mentioning the hilarious and brilliant official team away days. Although that’s not a ticketed event tbf 😂

But, yeah, it turns out Google and those surveyed students are wrong. Turns out, there are all sorts of people doing all sorts of cool things around the place. Turns out, actually, Gloucester is a city of young people organising their own gigs, the home of King’s Jam, of a Cathedral frequently filled with amazing art installations, of Afrobeats nights and breakdance battles, of hidden smartphone audio trails of the city…And all the Strike A Light stuff, too, of course.

There is magic here. You’ve just gotta find it!

Act 3. How to never miss the best nights out in Gloucester again

Well, so, this is what we do all-year-round: run out-of-the-ordinary events in unexpected places all across Gloucester. And we’ve just announced our spring and summer lineup.

Hopefully it comes as no surprise that I’m excited about that (even if I don’t manage to exude anything other than ‘terrible posture’ in this video) 😬😅

So these are the places to be between now and June:

And if you want to make sure you’re first to hear about these things – and other cool, exciting stuff happening in Gloucester – you should basically just hang out with us! You can do that however you prefer: follow us on Insta or Facebook or Twitter, or stick your name down for our emails, or just stop by our office and come and say hi in person if you like.

Any which way, hope to see you soon!