11 Things You Didn’t Know About Brixton
For years Brixton has been one of London’s best kept secrets. A bohemian neighbourhood absolutely bursting with art, music, culture and fabulous food. Brixton has had a huge cultural and artistic impact on the world as this is where David Bowie, Adele, Danny Kirwin of Fleetwood Mac, and two members of The Clash, called this part of London home.
If you want to get face-to-face with unparalleled street art, delicious market food, and some of the quirkiest locales in town, check out our friends and Subculture tours! But to occupy your time before you take the tour, here is our list of 12 things you didn’t know about Brixton!
1. Brixton has a restaurant staffed entirely by prisoners
Billed as “a dining experience delivering changed,” The Clink Restauraat Her Majesty’s Prison, Brixton is staffed entirely by prisoners who live there. Prisoners are eligible to earn credits towards a National Vocational Qualification in Hospitality, Catering and Customer Service. This programme equips inmates with skills and qualifications to be used as soon as they are released. As far as reducing the risk of reoffending, the programme has an 87.5% success rate!
2. Electric Avenue is located in Brixton
The first market street to be lit by electricity, Electric Avenue was built in the 1880’s. The street was later immortalised in Eddy Grant’s 1983 hit, “Electric Avenue” which reached No. 2 on the Singles Charts in both the U.K. and the U.S.
3. Brixton has produced a Mayor of London as well as a Prime Minister
Ken Livingstone, the very first Mayor of London from 2000 - 2008 grew up in the Brixton area. As did John Major, Prime Minister from 1990 - 1997.
4. Brixton has its’ own currency
Known as the Brixton Pound, this currency was first launched in September 2009. The idea is that this money, spendable only in Brixton, encourages spenders to shop locally. It is estimated that the Brixton Pound circulates through the local community three times longer than through national chains.
Currency comes in B£1, B£5, B£10 and B£20 denominations and are decorated with famous Brixtonian figures and places such as David Bowie, Electric Avenue and the Brixton Murals.
5. London’s ultimate Afro-Caribbean Market is here in Brixton
Although Brixton Markets sells goods from all over the world, it is primarily known for it’s wide range of food and goods from Africa and the Caribbean. The Market is both open air in the street (the famous “Electric Avenue”) as well as covered market arcades holding dozens and dozens of independent shops.
6. The Tate Library in Brixton is one of the first free libraries in London
Built in 1893 entirely with funds donated by Sir Henry Tate, the Tate Library was one of the first free public libraries opened in our capital city. It’s also worth noting that the money Sir Tate donated to create the library came from his massive success as a sugar merchant. Tate is given credit as being the first person to create a sugar cube and, for this reason, Tate & Lyle sugar is still a staple in many British households!
7. Between 1910 - 1915 nine cinemas were built in Brixton, including one of the first purpose built movie-theatres in the country
Most of Brixton’s cinemas were constructed underneath rail arches running through the area, with trains hiding to/from Victoria, Waterloo and London Bridge Stations. One of these cinemas, The Ritzy Picturehouse is widely regarded as one of the first cinema built specifically for film in the UK. And out of all the Brixton theatres, the Ritzy is the only one that still stands today.
8. Brixton has been a cultural meeting point for centuries
The earliest evidence of human habitation in the Brixton area comes from the ruins of Roman roads that ran through this area into the Roman port of Chichester. In the 11th century, the area was given the name ‘Brixistane’ in reference to a type of stone placed here: Brihtsige. The stones here were meeting points for communities in the near area which means Brixton has been a popular neighbourhood for nearly 1,000 years!
9. London’s only cannabis festival was previously held in Brixton
Ceasing in 2005, the JayDay Cannabis Festival used to be held in Brixton at Brockwell Park, organised by the Cannabis Coalition as a movement to lobby for the legalisation of marijuana. Although the festivals were always peaceful, Lambeth Council refused to hold the festival in 2005 owing to the continued illegality of cannabis in the UK.
10. The Splash Festival highlights some of London’s best up-and-coming acts
A festival still taking place in Brixton is the Splash Festival. Held on the first Sunday of August every year, the festival celebrates the independence of Jamaica and Jamaican culture. Local up and coming R&B artists, rappers, singers and dancers perform centre stage and occasionally these acts make it onto the international stage: Katy B headlined in 2010!
11. Brixton’s history is painted here
In a series of murals painted by local artists in Brixton, the colourful history of this area is carefully painted out. Highlighting events, people and places that help to form the Brixton neighbourhood, the murals are regarded as some of the finest works of street art in all of London.