Book review: Live at the Brixton Academy - Simon Parkes

How would you feel if you purchased a live music venue for just £1?

Front cover of Live at the Brixton Academy by Simon Parkes
This review was originally published in 2014. It was updated in 2024 for accuracy, clarity, and to add a link to

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Simon Parkes' book — Live at the Brixon Academy — ab0ut the rise of the south London music venue is fascinating. I've been to many gigs at the Academy I was surprised that I knew none of the background to one of London's best venues.

The book is extremely easy to read and even at just over four hundred pages didn't take me more than a few reading sessions to complete. Parkes does come across as a very likeable person who was a genuine music fan wishing to create something special.

What was interesting was how Parkes saw Brixton as a place. I am too young to remember the riots of the 80s but certainly know that the aftershocks of those events still linger nearly four decades on, and the environment wouldn't have nessecarily lent itself to a licenced music venue.

After reading the book, you can’t escape the feeling that it’s actually a disappointment that venues don’t operate in quite the same way any more. Parkes even alludes to this towards the end of the book in relation to eye-watering ticket prices and the erosion on the ‘gig experience.’

I couldn't shake the feeling that there was maybe a slight creative licence taken when describing some of the shadier or dangerous parts of Brixton business, but it never took away from the impact of the story. It did, however, appear that Parkes reflects much more kindly on the 80s period of the Academy with well over half the book is dedicated to it.

There is nothing wrong with this as it is obvious that part of the excitement was the journey to the top - however, it did make the book feel slightly lopsided as Parkes appeared to sprint through the 90's. Overall, a well written and engaging book about what is correctly described as one of London's best venues by someone that had a passion, vision and drive to create it.

Rating: 4/5

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