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Photograph: Jake Davis
Photograph: Jake Davis

How Brixton Courtyard brought clubbing back to London (kind of)

A bunch of enterprising south London locals got the party (re)started

By Kemi Alemoru
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The thumping sound of a Moxie DJ set spills out of Brixton Courtyard on a Saturday night. Inside the coronavirus-conscious open-air club, it almost feels like a normal end-of-summer night. I’m sitting at a picnic table, there’s sand underfoot and a chorus of excited, tipsy chatter fills the space around me. Nothing says ‘making the most of the dregs of BST’ like a chilly beach party full of drunks.

The venue was launched by Brixton Jamm in July. The idea was to create a space for people to go out without the anxiety of trying to mentally measure out a metre from people you don’t know at the bar. You stay seated on socially distanced benches and only interact with the bubble you arrive with. Drinks and street food – from HausParty and Only Jerkin’ – are delivered straight to your pre-booked table via a mobile app. This keeps you safe and also saves you the hassle of having to try and make really intense eye contact with the bartenders until you’re finally served.

Simon Denby, co-founder of Percolate, is promoting this new space. Usually he’d be planning sweaty club nights but he’s had to get savvy and adapt to the new rules around partying in the pandemic. ‘We’re going to have to find innovative ways to support the nightlife economy,’ he explains. ‘We could end up with a lot less venues if we don’t adapt, and then there are DJs, bar staff, sound-system engineers and cleaners, people who aren’t covered by government support at all.’

Denby has used Percolate’s reputation for throwing house, disco and techno parties with eclectic line-ups to switch up the way Brixton Jamm approaches music. The plan? Giving on-the-rise artists a chance to play to an audience in a year marred by cancelled shows. He hopes the pandemic is a turning point for people to be more mindful about diversifying who they book. As travel restrictions are brought in to reduce the spread of the virus, big headliners won’t be sucking up all the opportunities. ‘It’s been exciting working with local talent,’ he says.

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