By DEREK ROBERTSON, SEPT 2017
Unpretentious and welcoming, there’s a burgeoning scene of bars, art spaces, and concert venues where you’ll not only get change from a fiver for a pint, but the chance to see some of the capital’s hottest acts (Kate Tempest, Stormzy, and Fat White Family all hail from this side of the Thames). And with the Tube now running 24-hour at weekends, the lack of cabs is no longer an excuse not to venture to pastures new.
The New Cross InnNewly refurbished, this cosy bar and 250-capacity space hosts live music six nights a week – an eclectic mix of local talent, touring bands, and more established acts – and a pub quiz on Mondays. Their only criteria is that “it sounds fantastic”, an admirable policy that’s all too rare these days. And while the décor has been upgraded, prices for their top notch booze remain reasonable, something appreciated by the steady stream of regulars from nearby Goldsmiths University.
Brixton Academy The last stop on a band’s path before playing stadiums and arenas. With a capacity of just shy of 5000, it’s not intimate, but this Grade-II* listed building – complete with a 140ft domed roof and a stunning, art Deco interior – is one of London’s most prestigious, iconic venues, and the place to catch international superstars like The Killers, Arcade Fire, and The National. The sloping floor offers superb views for a venue this size, and the stage design is based on Venice’s Rialto bridge – definitely not one to be missed.
Amersham Arms Another trendy yet ramshackle watering hole in New Cross, but this Victorian boozer has bags of charm to go along with the cool. “Well-worn living room” is very much the vibe, the relaxed nature of a night out here making it a home from home for many regulars. The inclusivity of their booking policy adds to the appeal – alongside gigs and celebrity DJs, the Amersham also hosts comedy nights (Stewart Lee has played here), film screenings, poetry evenings, and even the odd art exhibition. Rarely has so much culture been crammed into a humble pub.
DIY space for London If you prefer your venue to have principles as well as a killer event schedule, then this co-operative community arts centre near Peckham is the place for you. Run by volunteers, their aim is to function as a one-stop creative shop for those whose voices go unheard; accountability and sustainability are the goals here, as well as providing a safe, welcoming space for the marginalized. Workshops, skills training, and yoga classes are just some of the events that sit alongside screenings and gigs, and there’s also a great little bar and record shop to help generate income for the venue’s upkeep.
CLF Art Cafe aka The Bussey Building Over the last few years, Peckham has rapidly shed its reputation for inner-city decay and become one of the most desirable locations for cultural creatives and underground art. Leading that change has been the Bussey Building, a rooftop venue and huge, multi-level warehouse space that hosts theatre, film, art, comedy, and plenty of music. From grass roots to the cutting edge, the founders – the Chronic Love Foundation – have created something of a wonderland for artists; the interior can be turned into pretty much anything, limited only by imagination. On top of all that, it’s also just a great place to grab a drink and look out over London’s skyline.