MASTERCLASS WITH SIMON PARKES – THE MAN WHO BOUGHT BRIXTON ACADEMY FOR £1

The BIMM Brighton corridors were abuzz with excitement on Friday 3rd February, packed with students keen to hear Simon Parkes’ inspirational story about how, in 1982 aged 23, he paid £1 for a virtually derelict building in London’s Brixton, and over the next 15 years turned it into Britain’s most iconic music venue.

Simon’s key to success was sheer genius. The building was owned by a brewery at the time, who were surprised that someone was showing an interest in this dilapidated venue, but they wanted £120,000 for it for a 15-year lease. Simon didn’t have that type of cash, so he told them he’d give them £1 for the building but would sell their beer in it for ten years. And the rest, as they say, is history!

But it wasn’t all smooth running. UK agents initially refused to put their bands on there because Brixton was considered to be too rough at the time, but the venue soon built up a reputation as the best place to see live reggae. This had its own drawbacks, though, because they didn’t sell a lot of beer at reggae gigs as most of the audience preferred to get stoned. Undeterred, Simon flew to LA to speak with US agents, who were unaware of Brixton’s seedy reputation at the time, and before long the Red Hot Chili Peppers were gracing the stage. Next came trade unionist Arthur Scargill’s ‘Christmas Party with The Clash’ at the time of the Miner’s Strike in 1984, which sold out for five nights and was a turning point for the venue – soon a steady flow of politically charged bands came through its doors, such as The Ramones, The Cult, The Band and The Smiths.

BIMM students found Simon’s Masterclass hugely entertaining and really enjoyed his stories reminiscing about famous musicians who played the Brixton Academy, including Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Lou Reed, New Order, the Beastie Boys and more.

Live Sound and Tour Diploma student, Elliott McKay, found Simon to be a great Masterclass host: “He’s very humble, yet brilliant! I really appreciated him sharing his knowledge, as it’s so beneficial to my future.”

Vocals student, Jessica Rose, also loved every moment of it: “It was so good to learn what someone with so much experience in the industry thinks about what’s coming next in the music industry.”

But our students weren’t the only ones who took positive things away from the session, with Simon himself having a great time too: “I really enjoyed it – I had the opportunity to meet some really nice students at the end who were refreshingly nice and ambitious. I love the atmosphere of BIMM. The set-up is great and they are a really lovely bunch!”

We’d like to thank Simon for coming and visiting us at BIMM Brighton. If you’d like to know more about Simon’s amazing life in the music business as founder of the Brixton Academy, you can purchase his book ‘Live At the Brixton Academy: A Riotous Life in the Music Business.’

To join us on a Music Business degree or diploma at BIMM Brighton – or any other course at BIMM – please contact a member of our Admissions Team on 0844 2 646 666, email admissions@bimm.co.uk or apply online today

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