The best music venues in London: artist picks

Tinie Tempah, Ella Eyre and more tell us their favourite place to catch live music in the capital

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Which music venues in London hold a special place in musicians' hearts? We asked some of the biggest names in music to name their favourite spots – past or present, whether they're on stage or in the crowd.

  • © Doug Peters

    The O2 Arena
    by Tinie Tempah

    ‘The O2’s an amazing place: I like the acoustics and the fact that it’s in south London, where I come from. Growing up, we didn’t have an arena like that. It was such a blessing when The O2 came along, and I went to see some of my favourite artists from all over 
the world there – from Beyoncé to Rihanna to Kanye West to Jay Z. In terms of experiencing a well-polished international act, I wouldn’t want to see them anywhere else. And to be able to say that I’ve sold out the same venue is an incredible thing.’

    Read more about The O2

    Tinie Tempah portrait © Armit & Naroop

  • © Luke Dyson

    XOYO
    by Ella Eyre

    ‘XOYO is a super-cool, special venue. It feels a bit like a cave – a big underground secret that no one above ground knows about. Plus the sound is great in there: you can truly hear everything. And it’s so small that you can look into everyone’s eyes while you’re playing. Everyone’s staring at you and there’s so much energy in the room and everyone is just there to enjoy it – to get down with you.’

  • O2 Academy Brixton
    by Paul Hartnoll of Orbital

    ‘The whole place has an air of slightly post-apocalyptic glory. This amazing old theatre, 
with the most ridiculously over-the-top cardboard facade built around the stage – it’s incredible. The whole place is so sort of down on its luck, but it’s a beautiful kind of faded grandeur. It feels like you’re doing all the wrong things in that building. It wasn’t designed for rock ’n’ roll gigs or all-night raves. Yet it takes to it so gracefully, and accepts it. It sounds brilliant if you’re in the audience or performing: it’s got this massive stage that lets you do anything you like up there. It’s a joy to play. I’ve played there so many times – when I walk in the door there, I take a big breath and think: Home again!’

  • Cecil Sharp House
    by Sam Lee

    ‘It’s been the centre of folk-music education and discovery for the last 75 years, so it’s culturally fascinating. The fact that old and new folk can come together here makes it unique. It’s an institution and you get to see some of the great songwriting legends of the 1950s and ’60s in close proximity. But I can also bring a whole new realm of contemporary, experimental music to this traditional venue and it just fits. It’s a place where history comes to life a little bit.’

    Read more about Cecil Sharp House

    Sam Lee © Rick Pushinsky

  • © Stuart Leech

    Roundhouse
    by Imogen Heap

    ‘I grew up in a round house – though technically it’s elliptical – and I have this affinity with buildings that have that flow, so this is a special place for me. It’s an amazing place to watch music, it has this wonderful airy space. And it’s so versatile. They have circus and performing arts events as well as classical and contemporary music. And it’s not stuffy like some grand buildings are. It’s chilled and always feels welcoming.’

  • The Forum
    by Jeremy Pritchard of Everything Everything

    ‘The greatest thing about The Forum is its size: big enough for a gig there to feel like a real occasion but small enough to feel intimate. You get to see everyone’s faces, even from the huge balconies. It’s a lovely building too because it used to be a cinema then an Irish dancehall. The bass player from Foals told me it was the blackshirt HQ during the rise of fascism. In one way, I hope that’s not true; but if it is, I like that it’s now being used for the opposite purpose, bringing people together instead of dividing them.’

  • © Paul Wilkinson

    Ronnie Scott’s
    by James Pearson, Ronnie Scott’s house band leader

    ‘It’s the oldest jazz venue in London, and the fact that it’s been there since 1959 makes it feel really special. You could say that the walls hold the spirit of all the great musicians who have played there – everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Oscar Peterson. It’s also a place where musicians like to go and hang and jam, so the late-night scene is always vibrant. You look around you and see the photos and all the people and you realise that you’re at the hub of the British jazz scene.’

  • © Nick Gutteridge

    Wigmore Hall
    by Grace Chatto of Clean Bandit

    ‘Wigmore Hall is my favourite place to watch a concert. It just has the best sound for chamber music, my favourite kind of classical music. My parents took me there when I was quite young, about eight. I’m still struck by how beautiful the hall is. I love how it’s decorated, and the red velvet seats. They always put on amazing quartets and chamber ensembles. Even if you aren’t going in order to hear a particular performer or 
composer, you can always be sure it’ll be a good programme.’

© Doug Peters

The O2 Arena
by Tinie Tempah

‘The O2’s an amazing place: I like the acoustics and the fact that it’s in south London, where I come from. Growing up, we didn’t have an arena like that. It was such a blessing when The O2 came along, and I went to see some of my favourite artists from all over 
the world there – from Beyoncé to Rihanna to Kanye West to Jay Z. In terms of experiencing a well-polished international act, I wouldn’t want to see them anywhere else. And to be able to say that I’ve sold out the same venue is an incredible thing.’

Read more about The O2

Tinie Tempah portrait © Armit & Naroop

As part of the inaugural London Music Awards, organised by the Mayor's Music Fund and sponsored by Raymond Weil, Time Outers were given the chance to decide which of the capital's great concert halls, clubs and gig venues should be awarded the title of 'London's Favourite Venue'

See what Londoners voted as their top gig venue

Users say

1 comments
Lewis
Lewis

Errrr.... Notting Hill Arts Club?

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