What Next for the Fleece?

Over the past two and half years, the Fleece has seen somewhat of a renaissance.

Transformed from what was widely regarded as one of the roughest pubs in the town centre into a clean, friendly pub with a burgeoning music scene was no mean feat, but former managers Gareth Williams and Stephanie Bissett did just that.

Banning the unsavouries from the pub was the first move, and a lick of paint or two and the refurbishment of the beer garden were more of the steps taken to make the Fleece what it is today, but of course the biggest change has been the introduction of live music. When Gareth and Stef took over the pub in 2006, the only places to see live music were the Bay Horse and The Box. Not exactly diverse. So with the help of prolific Chelmsford music promoters and an enthusiastic management team, they turned the Fleece into a pub venue that has not only given a home to many great local bands and promoters, but also drawn in bands from all over the UK, including Manchester’s Dieter and the Gadabouts and the fantastic Mozzy Green.

Exile off Duke Street was (ironically) one of the first promoters to set up home at the Fleece, followed by High off the Dancehalls (hosted by Cathouse) and eventually the popular Nobody Don’t Dance No More. Essex Rocks soon followed suit, as well as Great Gig at the Fleece and Chelmsford Take a Bow, all home to exciting new bands and great local DJ talent. After winning last year’s Panic Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Music’, the pub went from strength to strength, with just one of the highlights being Dead Kids’ live show back in January, as well Panic in the Streets’ Sunday all-dayer and the Nobody Don’t Dance No More birthday session (complete with wrestling tellytubbies).

After creating such a successful venue, Gareth and Stef have moved on, leaving Panic to wonder just what will happen to the Fleece? Since the new management took over in August, the pub has appeared empty and lacking the exciting musical talent it has nurtured over the past couple of years.

The opening of new venue Barhouse has certainly taken its toll on the pub’s fortunes, with flagship clubnights High off the Dancehalls and Nobody Don’t Dance no More both defecting. Other Fleece favourites have moved, including Shakey carving a new scene over at the Two Brewers. So what’s next for the new Fleece team? August saw a nadir of decent live music at the pub, leaving punters gagging for something…though karaoke is never the answer. NEVER. Ok?
However, September saw the welcome return of the Fleece’s usual scene. Essex Rocks returned triumphantly with Whitespace headlining, and Take a Bow presented their usual brand of local indie. Highlights of next month include the welcome return of Halomobilo (11th October) and a new garage rock night (4th October) – get pogo-ing kids. With the promise of a continuing music scene and a fully booked October for the Fleece, our advice is to get involved. Good luck Brett and the new Fleece team…may you be as fabulous as the last lot!

Kaff Eastoe