Brixton Academy
Exterior of venue (in 2019)
Map
Former namesAstoria Variety Cinema (1929–39)
Odeon Astoria (1939–72)
Sundown Centre (1972)
Fair Deal (1982)
Brixton Academy (1983–2004)
Carling Academy (2004–09)
Address211 Stockwell Road
London, UK
Coordinates51°27′54″N 0°06′54″W / 51.465107°N 0.114922°W / 51.465107; -0.114922
Public transit
OwnerAcademy Music Group
Capacity4,921
Detailed capacity[1]
  • General admission: 4,300
  • Reserved: 3,820
  • Theatre: 2,315
Construction
Opened19 August 1929 (1929-08-19)
Renovated
  • 1983
  • 2006
Closed
  • 29 July 1972 (1972-07-29)
  • January 1973
  • April 1982
  • December 2022
Reopened
  • September 1972
  • 12 March 1982 (1982-03-12)
  • 7 October 1983 (1983-10-07)
  • 19 April 2024 (2024-04-19)
Construction cost£250,000
(£14.5 million in 2019 pounds)[2]
Architect
  • Thomas Somerford
  • Edward Albert Stone
Website
Official website Edit this at Wikidata

Brixton Academy (originally known as the Astoria Variety Cinema, previously known as Carling Academy Brixton, currently named O2 Academy Brixton as part of a sponsorship deal with the O2 brand) is a mid-sized concert venue located in South West London, in the Lambeth district of Brixton.

Opening in 1929 as a cinema, the venue was converted into a discotheque in 1972, then reborn as a concert hall in 1983. It is owned by the Academy Music Group (AMG), and has become one of London's leading music venues,[3] hosting over 50 live albums,[4] and winning the NME Best Venue 12 times since 1994.[5] It has been home to several notable performances, including The Smiths' last gig (December 1986),[6] Leftfield's June 1996 concert which set a decibel record for a live gig at 137db,[7] and Madonna's gig in 2000, which was watched by an online audience of 9 million.[8]

In December 2022, two people died and others were seriously injured following a crowd crush at the door. As a result the venue was closed, with reopening subject to meeting council licensing conditions. It reopened on 19 April 2024.

History

Part of the Italian Renaissance interior of the auditorium

The venue started as a cinema and theatre in 1929 on the site of a private garden in Stockwell Road. Designed by the architects Thomas Somerford and E. A. Stone,[9] it was built at a cost of £250,000 as an "Astoria" theatre. The opening show was the Al Jolson film The Singing Fool, followed by a variety act, including Heddle Nash and Derek Oldham which was broadcast by the BBC. The theatre eventually closed its doors as a cinema on 29 July 1972. It was then converted into a discotheque in September 1972, known as the "Sundown Centre".[10] The club was not a success and closed down some four months later. In May 1974 planning permission was sought to demolish the Grade II listed building and replace it with a motor showroom and petrol station. However, the redevelopment scheme was scrapped. The building was kept heated after it closed, and was used as an equipment store by the Rank Organisation.[11]

In 1981, the venue was remodelled by Sean Treacy, who later ran the entire site services, was re-opened as a rock venue called "Fair Deal"[12] with a concert by UB40 and an interior restoration. The Clash played the venue in 1982 on their Casbah Club tour (30 July) but the venue closed later that year due to debt. In 1983, Simon Parkes bought the venue for £1, and re-opened it as the Brixton Academy.[13] The academy's success steadily grew throughout the 1980s with numerous reggae productions and it was hired out to major rock and pop acts such as The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits and the Police for rehearsal. The venue was also used for video shoots for Wham! (Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go) and Culture Club.[14] Parkes would go on to write a book about his experience of running the venue, Live At The Brixton Academy: A Riotous Life in the Music Business, which was published in 2014.[15]

In 1995, Parkes sold the theatre to Break for the Border. Under its new ownership (McKenzie Group),[16] reinvestment started immediately, with a complete £500,000 refurbishment of the Art Deco building frontage to its original grandeur, additional facilities both front of house and backstage and a capacity increase to just under 5,000. The venue is currently run by the Academy Music Group after a rebranding in August 2004[17] and hosts a range of live acts and club nights. With the sale, the venue's title was changed to Carling Academy Brixton. In 2008, naming rights were purchased for £25.5 million by the O2 brand, owned by the Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica.[18]

Being one of the biggest non-arena music venues in London, the academy has been used by many very successful acts. It has also been voted venue of the year 12 times since 1994 in the annual NME Awards.[19] In addition the venue has won the Music Week Award for Venue of the Year several times including 2009.[20]

2022 Asake concert crush

A crowd crush outside a performance by Asake on 15 December 2022 seriously injured four people,[21] two of whom died in the following days.[22][23] The Guardian cast doubt on early reports that people were trying to force their way in without a ticket.[24] The newspaper also questioned the management of the building and its entrances.[25] As a result of the crowd crush, Lambeth councillors met in the early hours of 22 December 2022 and decided to suspend the academy's operating licence following the "severity of events" and "risks to public safety" from "a lack of crowd control at the front doors". The licence was suspended until a full hearing on 16 January 2023,[26] when it was suspended for a further three months.[27]

The BBC reported that security staff were said to accept bribes to allow people in without a ticket.[28] In April 2023 the Metropolitan Police stated that they had no confidence in the holder of the venue's licence and that they were applying for the licence to be revoked.[29] In September 2023, the police stated that they were not opposed to the venue reopening, but simply opposed to AMG operating it.[30]

On 15 September 2023 Lambeth Council announced that the venue was permitted to re-open after the incident,[31] providing they meet new licensing conditions including strengthened doors, a new security contractor and additional safety procedures. A full list of the conditions is published online by Lambeth Council.

The venue is due to reopen on 19 April 2024.[32]

Notable performances

The decorative proscenium arch, framing the stage, with a concert in progress (Sex Pistols, 2007)

The Smiths played their last gig here in December 1986[6] which was an Anti-Apartheid benefit scheduled for the Royal Albert Hall but rearranged to the Brixton Academy due to Johnny Marr being involved in a car accident.[33]

The Ramones played their final European show at the venue on February 3, 1996, before touring for the last time in South and North America.[34]

Madonna played a special concert at the venue in 2000, to promote the release of her album, Music. The concert was broadcast live online and was watched by a record-breaking audience of 9 million.[8]

Artists such as The Clash, Deborah Harry, The Prodigy, Arcade Fire, Nine Inch Nails and Bob Dylan have all played five consecutive nights at the venue.[citation needed] In 2002, Iron Maiden played three consecutive nights as a part of charity event "Clive Aid 2002". The band set the record for merchandise and ticket sales.[35] The Mighty Boosh broke this record in 2008, with their second live show Boosh Live, playing seven consecutive nights.[36] The xx equalled their record in March 2017, playing seven consecutive nights in support of third record I See You, becoming the first music act to reach that number.[37]

Leftfield set the world's decibel record for a live concert in 1996 when they reached 137db.[7] They were summarily banned from using the same sound system at the venue after the high bass levels started disintegrating the ceiling, resulting in showers of dust and plaster.[38] They returned in 2000 using a different sound system.[citation needed]

Albums recorded at Brixton

See also: Live at Brixton Academy (disambiguation)

Videos recorded at Brixton

References

  1. ^ "Company Profile: O2 Academy Brixton". Academy Music Group. December 2020. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  2. ^ United Kingdom Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the MeasuringWorth "consistent series" supplied in Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2018). "What Was the U.K. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  3. ^ "Visitor Information: O2 Academy Brixton". LondonTown. April 2012. Archived from the original on 8 December 2012.
  4. ^ "A Brief History of Brixton Academy". southlondonclub.co.uk. 17 August 2017.
  5. ^ Rhian Daly (8 February 2017). "VO5 NME Awards 2017: 9 Things You Might Not Know About London's O2 Academy Brixton". NME.
  6. ^ a b Zaleski, Annie (12 December 2016). "30 Years Ago: The Smiths Play Their Final Concert". Diffuser.fm. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  7. ^ a b "The loudest bands of all time". Radio X. Global Radio. 2 July 2020. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020. Alt URL
  8. ^ a b "9 Million Watch Madonna Webcast". CBS News. CBS Corporation. 28 November 2000. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  9. ^ Visvardi, Aikaterini (31 March 2016). "The Sound of Music". Vicinity Magazine: 89. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020 – via Issuu.
  10. ^ Allen, Carl (15 April 2016). London Gig Venues. Stroud, England: Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1445658209.
  11. ^ Parkes, Simon; Rafaeli, J.S. (23 January 2014). Live at the Brixton Academy: A Riotous Life in the Music Business. London, England: Profile Books. ISBN 978-1847659934.
  12. ^ Gimarc, George (2005). Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock, 1970–1982. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Backbeat Books. ISBN 0879308486.
  13. ^ Parkes, Simon; Thomas, Justin (27 January 2014). "I Bought the Brixton Academy for £1". Vice. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  14. ^ Bray, Elisa (23 January 2014). "The week in music: Riotous story of how Brixton became a rock fans'". The Independent. Retrieved 16 July 2023.
  15. ^ Parkes, Simon (2014). Live At The Brixton Academy: A Riotous Life in the Music Business. London: Serpent's Tail. ISBN 9781846689550.
  16. ^ "MBO to boost Academy roll-out". The Herald. 30 August 2004. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  17. ^ "MKG Announce Carling Academy Liverpool". Entertainment Technology Press. 14 May 2003. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  18. ^ "O2 replaces Carling as Academy venues sponsor". Marketing Week. 6 November 2008. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  19. ^ "Profile". Academy Music Group. August 2005. Archived from the original on 19 July 2007. Retrieved 8 November 2007.
  20. ^ Cardew, Ben (9 April 2009). "Blackwell saluted as best of last 50 years". Music Week. Archived from the original on 25 April 2009.
  21. ^ "Suspected crush outside Asake gig at Brixton O2 Academy". BBC News. 16 December 2022. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  22. ^ "Brixton Academy: Woman dies after Asake concert crush". BBC News. 17 December 2022. Retrieved 17 December 2022.
  23. ^ "Security guard Gabrielle becomes second to die after Brixton Academy crowd crush". The Independent. 19 December 2022. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  24. ^ Stewart, Heather (18 December 2022). "Witnesses to Brixton concert crush say many fans outside had tickets". The Guardian.
  25. ^ Weaver, Matthew; Stewart, Heather (21 December 2022). "Asake concert crush: what happened on the night at London venue". The Guardian.
  26. ^ "Brixton Academy licence suspended after fatal crush". BBC News. 22 December 2022. Retrieved 22 December 2022.
  27. ^ Salisbury, Josh (16 January 2023). "Brixton O2 Academy has licence suspended for three months after fatal crowd crush left two dead". Evening Standard. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  28. ^ Meisel, Anna; Kiteley, Patrick (17 January 2023). "Brixton Academy security guards regularly 'took bribes'". BBC News. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  29. ^ Warren, Jess (25 April 2023). "Met wants Brixton venue licence revoked over crush". BBC News. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  30. ^ Cafe, Rebecca (13 September 2023). "Met Police 'does not want O2 Brixton permanently closed'". BBC News. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  31. ^ Council, Lambeth (15 September 2023). "Love Lambeth". Love Lambeth. Retrieved 16 September 2023.
  32. ^ Phillips, Jacob (19 April 2024). "Brixton Academy reopening tonight for first time since fatal crush". Evening Standard. Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  33. ^ "Morrissey jealous of neck brace". The Boston Globe. 20 July 2009. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  34. ^ "25 Years Ago Today - the Ramones Play Their Last U.K. Show (Listen 2/3/96 Audio)".
  35. ^ "Record-breaking three Brixton Academy shows". ironmaiden.com. 15 February 2022. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  36. ^ Moore, Sam (28 July 2016). "New 'The Mighty Boosh' exhibition to showcase unseen tour photography and Noel Fielding illustrations". NME. Archived from the original on 22 October 2016.
  37. ^ "The xx announce record-breaking seven Brixton Academy shows". The Guardian. 25 November 2016. Archived from the original on 26 November 2016.
  38. ^ "Leftfield Bring the House Down". Turbosound. MUSIC Group IP Ltd. November 2010. Archived from the original on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  39. ^ "Faith No More: Live at the Brixton Academy (Video 1990)". IMDb. 18 September 1990.
  40. ^ "Faith No More: Live at the Brixton Academy Movie Reviews, Information and Film Reviews for Faith No More: Live at the Brixton Academy the Movie". movierevie.ws.
  41. ^ "LIVE IN LONDON -BABYMETAL WORLD TOUR 2014-". 20 May 2015 – via Amazon.
  42. ^ "Sea Girls Shares New Single 'Hometown' And Launches New Documentary 'Homesick At Night For Brixton'". Udiscovermusic. 18 November 2021. Retrieved 3 March 2022.