This week between Monday 28 January and Sunday 3 February, the UK’s music scene will be taken over by Independent Venue Week.
IVW is the UK’s leading celebration of its independent music venues. These venues give upcoming artists some of their earliest experiences of playing in front of a crowd and music fans the chance to discover artists in an intimate and unique setting.
TickX has decided to celebrate these venues by awarding six venues across the UK our new Independent Venue Award. Each day this Independent Venue Week, we’ll chat with staff from each of the venues we’ve selected to explore the venue itself, highlight the work it does in its local music scene and look at the events it has in store this week.
Today’s winner is…
Today, our Independent Venue Award goes to the famous Windmill in Brixton, South London. While it looks unassuming from the outside, the Windmill has slowly grown out of its Blenheim Gardens location to be regarded as one of London’s finest independent venues, featuring highly in polls by Time Out, The Guardian and The Independent.
The Windmill’s cheap entry prices and even cheaper beer make it a popular destination for indie fans in this residential suburb, all without compromising the venue’s reputation for championing quality new music. Celebrity fans of the venue include Radio X’s John Kennedy and 6 Radio Music’s Steve Lamacq.
What is the Windmill Brixton like?
The Windmill opened as a pub in 1971 for the nearby Blenheim Gardens housing estate and gradually assumed an artier clientele before shifting its focus to live music in around 2002. Although the Windmill is known for attracting many interesting characters, perhaps its most famous was ‘Roof Dog’ – a Rottweiler dog that lived on the roof of the venue until 2015 and remains the venue’s mascot.
The Windmill’s performance space can fit in around 150 people standing up and hosts a huge range of gigs across a diverse range of genres from folk and soul to punk and rap. The venue does have a viewing area for wheelchair users or can provide seats on request to allow gig-goers not to miss a moment of the action.
To find more about the Windmill Brixton, we spoke with Tim Perry, head music booker at the venue, to ask what makes the venue so well loved.
How did you get involved with the Windmill? What makes the venue special to you?
I used to be a music journalist and to ease the boredom of reading press releases and listening to a lot of mediocrity, I decided to do some country vs hiphop nights about twenty years ago. Strangely, it went from one night a month to a full time job in a couple of years.
I guess that’s one of the things that makes the Windmill special to me in that you could get away with running crazy themed nights and people still do that here. Also, it’s a flat-roofed building and we have a dog on it. He’s pretty special.
What’s the most memorable gig you’ve seen/put on at the Windmill?
That’s an unfair question! But one of the best things about promoting is seeing brand new bands come out of nowhere and do something really special. A couple of bands who had it from day one were Clor (way back in the mid-2000s) and more recently Black Midi. On both occasions people were standing around open-mouthed and wondering who the hell the band were. To me that means more than putting on a “big” show.
What role do you think venues like the Windmill play in London’s music scene and the wider music world?
I like to think we’re accessible and are able to give people a start if we like their stuff. We do a lot of bookings in-house so it’s probably easier to get in touch with us than some promoters, although, having said that, the amount of requests is often unmanageable.
What impact does being involved with Independent Venue Week have on the Windmill?
This is our fifth year of being involved in Independent Venue Week. From the start we thought it would be a good idea to not go chasing big names, but to round up our favourite local acts that have played here in the past 12 months and put them all together in one crazy week. Of course, some of those acts like Goat Girl, Sorry and Black Midi have started to do well and we’re delighted that they still come back.
Which events are you most looking forward to at the Windmill this IVW and later this spring? impact does being involved with Independent Venue Week have on the Windmill?
All seven Independent Venue Week shows are going to be great. After that, we have Good Sad Happy Bad on 8 Feb and the legend that is Damo Suzuki (ex-Can) on 24 March.