The Windmill pub sits just a short walk from its namesake to the south of central Brixton, and is well-known to new music lovers across London. The Brixton Blog caught up with Tim Perry, the pub’s discerning band booker, in the Windmill shed under a noisy September downpour.
The Windmill was built in 1971 to serve the adjacent Blenheim Gardens estate. Originally catering for a large local Irish population, it started putting on club nights in the ‘90s, until a new focus on live music from the early noughties earned it a reputation as a champion of new music. The likes of Bloc Party, Hot Chip, The Vaccines and many more young bands have graced the stage on their way to international fame. The Windmill’s reputation is due in no small part to the top notch curation of Tim Perry, who joined the pub ten years ago, as well as the now iconic Roof Dog.
Tim had already worked as a gig promoter in Brixton, running country and hip-hop nights at much-loved local venue Brady’s Bar on Atlantic Road, moving to the Windmill when that pub shut down in 1999. The Windmill has changed a lot since then, as have the types of bands that play there. “We used to get just local bands at first, from South London.” says Tim. “Then we started getting bands from everywhere – North London, Oxford, then even from Nova Scotia.”
The Windmill now hosts three or four touring bands every week, which can, according to Tim, fall into “any genre, as long as it’s good and I like it.” He insists that he still applies rigorous quality control to his choices. The diversity of music that can be heard there is revealed by a quick glance at the listings. In August the pub hosted the UK’s first ever Afropunk Music Festival – a festival dedicated to black punk music that is an offshoot of a famous New York festival of the same name. The Windmill also hosts Brixton band Poeticat’s monthly residency, regular nights of off-the-wall madness fusing music, poetry and art in a completely new and unexpected way.
Music is very important to the pub from a financial point of view, and it’s not always an easy job convincing people to make the journey out to Blenheim Gardens. “East London is very much seen as the hub of new music,” explains Tim. To make things harder, changes to licensing law have also meant that The Windmill faces a lot more competition, with any pub now able to put on live music. “The Windmill is definitely still a drinking pub,” says Tim, “and it’s open to all from 5pm every day.”