Brixton Academy

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Coordinates: 51°27′54″N0°06′54″W / 51.465107°N 0.114922°W / 51.465107; -0.114922


Brixton Academy
Brixton Academy, London.jpg
Exterior of venue (in 2019)
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 Rd
London SW9 9SL England
Location Brixton
Public transit National Rail logo.svg Brixton
Underground no-text.svg Brixton
Owner Academy Music Group
Capacity 4,921
Detailed capacity [1]
  • General admission: 4,300
  • Reserved: 3,820
  • Theatre: 2,315
Opened19 August 1929 (1929-08-19)
  • 1983
  • 2006
  • 29 July 1972 (1972-07-29)
  • January 1973
  • April 1982
  • September 1972
  • 12 March 1982 (1982-03-12)
  • 7 October 1983 (1983-10-07)
Construction cost£250,000
($15.2 million in 2019 pounds [2] )
  • Thomas Somerford
  • Edward Albert Stone
Venue Website

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 London, in the district of Brixton. Opening in 1929 as a cinema, the venue was converted into a discotheque in 1972 then was reborn as a concert hall in 1983. It is owned by the Academy Music Group, 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]


Part of the Italian Renaissance interior of the auditorium Sex Pistols in Stockwell, 2007-11-03.jpg
Part of the Italian Renaissance interior of the auditorium

The venue started life 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 Eric Clapton, Dire Straits & The Police for rehearsal. The venue was also used for video shoots for Wham! (Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go) and Culture Club.

In 1995, Parkes sold the theatre to "Break for the Border". Under its new ownership (McKenzie Group), [14] 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 [15] and hosts a range of live acts and club nights. With the sale, the venue's title was changed to the "Carling Academy Brixton". In 2008, naming rights were purchased for £25.5 million by the O2 brand, owned by the Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica. [16]

Being one of the biggest non-arena venues in London, the Academy has been used by many very successful acts. It has also been voted venue of the year twelve times since 1994 in the annual NME Awards. [17] In addition the venue has won the Music Week Award for Venue of the Year several times including 2009. [18]

Notable performances

The decorative proscenium arch, framing the stage, with a concert in progress (Sex Pistols, 2007) Sex Pistols at Brixton Academy 2007-11-03 (4).jpg
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. [19]

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]

Rammstein, Iron Maiden, The Clash, Deborah Harry, The Prodigy, Arcade Fire, Nine Inch Nails, Bob Dylan, HARD-Fi, The 1975 and Sex Pistols have all played five consecutive nights at the venue.[ citation needed ] The Mighty Boosh broke this record in 2008, with their second live show Boosh Live , playing seven consecutive nights. [20] 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. You could say they reached 8 nights in a row if you include the day off in which Jamie XX played a sold out club night for charity . [21]

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. [22] They returned in 2000 using a different sound system.

Albums recorded at Brixton

Videos recorded at Brixton

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