BRIX & MORTAR: Brixton Academy

Written by Barney Evison, Arts co-editor, as part of Brix & Mortar: a celebration of Brixton’s unique landmarks.

The academy today. Picture by Alistair Hall
The Academy today. Picture by Alistair Hall

The Brixton Academy was built in the late 1920s as a cinema and theatre, at a time when the introduction of sound to moving film resulted in a heightened interest across the city for larger, more luxurious venues. The Astoria, as it was then known, opened in 1929 and was built in the Art Deco style, modelled on an Italian garden. It remained a cinema until 1972, when it became the Sundown Centre rock venue.

Crystal Castles gig at the O2 Academy Winter 2013. Photo by Jason Williamson
Crystal Castles gig at the O2 Academy Winter 2012. Photo by Jason Williamson

It was eventually fully restored in the 1980s as part of a wider cultural regeneration of Brixton’s centre and rechristened the Brixton Academy. Despite undergoing several redevelopments and different owners, the building retains it characteristic proscenium arch and Art Deco interior and is now a Grade II listed building. Like many of Brixton’s landmark buildings, it narrowly escaped demolition in 1974 when developers sought to build a petrol station in its place.

2013 is the thirtieth anniversary of the Brixton Academy’s life as a music venue and it is one of London’s top medium-sized music venues, receiving accolades from musicians and industry alike. Many famous music stars have graced its stage, including Bob Dylan, The Smiths, The Clash, Madonna and The Sex Pistols.