Famous music venue Fridge reopens as Electric Brixton

Electric Brixton
Image caption The Fridge in south London has undergone a £1m facelift. Photo courtesy of urban75

"Brixton is the new Camden," says Electric Brixton's owner Dominic Madden.

It's a bold statement, given Camden, in north London, has been at the heart of the capital's live music scene for decades.

The Fridge in south London is due to reopen in late September, rebranded as Electric Brixton, having undergone a £1m facelift.

Walking towards the venue, which was at the centre of the punk and New Romantic music scenes of the 70s and 80s, a hoarding covers up a giant graffiti ghetto blaster, due to be unveiled next month.

Inside, the former cinema has been stripped back to its ornate 1912 neo-classical plaster work, freshly painted in a shimmering gold.

"People love these buildings and want them reopened as venues," said Mr Madden.

'Premiere' venues

The new owner hopes Electric Brixton will fill a gap in the market left after central London's Astoria was demolished in 2009 for Crossrail construction to begin.

"Venues of this sort of heritage and capacity are disappearing. Hammersmith Palais gone, the Astoria's gone," Mr Madden said.

Image caption Soul II Soul hosted a residency at the Fridge in the late-80s

"We're attracting acts that historically would have gone to those venues."

But with the Brixton Academy located five minutes up the road, having successfully hosted big name artists for three decades, does the area need another music venue?

After all, box office takings for concerts in the UK fell for the first time in more than a decade last year, so the live music market is far from booming.

Yet Mr Madden is confident about Electric Brixton's potential.

"It's the missing piece of the jigsaw in Brixton," he said.

"The massive Brixton Academy is an international phenomenon with a capacity of 5,000. We're 1,700 capacity, so in a completely different ball game.

"We complement the Academy and it's brilliant for Brixton - two premiere venues."

The building which holds Electric Brixton certainly has a history of attracting big live acts and music fans alike.

'Raw' relaunch

The Clash and the Smiths played at the venue when it was known as Brixton Ace, before it became the Fridge in the mid-80s.

The Pet Shop Boys and Eurythmics performed there during the 80s, while Grace Jones took to the stage in the 90s.

Image caption Sham 69 are reforming to play a one-off gig at the Electric Brixton

Meanwhile, the Fridge was seminal to dance culture, being one of the first London club venues to host video screens and a chill-out lounge.

"The Fridge broke genres and moulds," said Mr Madden.

R&B act Soul II Soul had a residency playing hip hop and funk at the venue in the late 80s.

Jazzie B, who founded the group, described what made the venue stand out for him.

"One of the beauties of the venue was it felt traditional and authentic, with a certain eeriness, which created more of an atmosphere," he said.

"It has a certain ambience that new venues don't have," he added.

"The venue was very eclectic and inclusive - it had our whole motto going for it - with a happy face, a thumping bass, for love and race."

Whether Electric Brixton will succeed in the tough, highly-competitive live music market remains to be seen.

But one of the first bands to be playing at the new venue is enthusiastic about its potential.

"The renovation of the venue is one of the most exciting things in recent London music history," said Sham 69 frontman Jimmy Pursey, whose punk band is reforming to play a one-off gig in October.

"We'll relaunch this venue with rawness. My heart's pumping for this gig."

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