OPINION – Dylan Jones: Welcome back, Brixton Academy – how we’ve missed you


here must be people in London who haven’t been to the Brixton Academy, in the same way there surely must be people who have never seen Holland Park at dusk or walked along Brick Lane at dawn, but are they real Londoners?

Up until it closed in January, the Academy was one of the most iconic venues in the city, a place that always looked incongruous among the toy town terraces of Stockwell Road, a gigantic spaceship of a ballroom hovering south of the river.

And now it is back. Properly back. After closing down earlier in the year following a crowd crush and two deaths, the Academy will soon be allowed to reopen. At a hearing last week Lambeth council agreed that the Brixton Academy could have its licence reinstated if it met 77 “extensive and robust” conditions, to promote public safety, which means it will soon return to normal service, curating memories for yet another generation of concert goers.

Labour’s cabinet member for safer communities, Mahamed Hashi, shared in a statement that there will be a focus on safety for both visitors and staff, with measures to be put in place such as stronger doors, new crowd management systems, more detailed risk assessments, a new ticketing system, a new centralised control-and-command centre as well as new security and management on site.

I’ve seen more gigs there than I care to remember, although the memorable ones I’ll never forget. There was Hollywood Beyond in 1987, Public Enemy in 1992, and a Madonna gig in 2000, which was watched online by an audience of nine million. Wham! even rehearsed their final gig at Wembley there in the summer of 1986 (as we snaked around the building, waiting to get in, my companion said, to the obvious amusement of those in earshot, “Ah, a different corner”).

One of the most fetishised gigs I went to was the last gig by the Smiths

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Morrissey of The Smiths on stage at Brixton Academy on October 24th, 1986

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Morrissey of The Smiths on stage at Brixton Academy on October 24th, 1986

/ Redferns

One of the most fetishised gigs was the one I went to a few months later, in December that year, which was the last gig by the Smiths. Having seen them four years earlier I was amazed at how much their fan base had changed in that time, moving from the doe-eyed and the bookish to the rabid and the fierce. As the crowd poured out onto Brixton Road that night, it was almost as though the Stretford End had suddenly migrated south for the night, bringing their gladioli with them.

Now, following the decision, the venue is set to relaunch with a series of “test events” and a timeline for the reopening will be announced shortly. Academicians, form an orderly queue.

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