Dublin’s Academy: there’s a new sherriff in town
New operators oversee €1million upgrade of capital city venue – including the dreaded Academy 2
The Academy on Dublin’s Middle Abbey Street has been through a few iterations over the years. What began as HQ/Hot Press Music Hall of Fame (a partnership between MCD’s Denis Desmond, Hot Press magazine editor Niall Stokes and others which ended up in court over losses of €1.5 million) then became the Spirit nightclub.
Back in the early years of the last decade, Spirit’s Robbie Wootton had huge plans for the Spirit brand and he told this writer in an Irish Times’ piece in 2003 that he wanted to open up seven of these centres around the world. He only got around to adding just one more club to his portfolio, a venue in New York on the site previously occupied by Twilo (which was purchased by Wootton and partner Denis Desmond for $13.5 million in ’03) which housed a vegetarian restaurant, aromatherapy and massage clinics and a yoga centre in addition to a club. But that venture hit the wall in 2006, while Spirit back in Dublin also ran out of road and became first Spirit 57 and then the Academy in October 2007.
This time, it’s a change of management and a refurbishment rather than another name change which is making headlines. While the venue is still owned by Denis Desmond, the new managers of the previously MCD-managed venue are Shine Productions’ Alan Simms and Phil Donaldson. They’re the duo behind such long-running Belfast events as the Shine club, the Limelight venues (MCD and Shine Productions purchased The Limelight collection of venues together) and the excellent Belsonic summer festival (which also involves MCD). Shine also ran the Stiff Kitten venue in Belfast which closed earlier this year.
Simms and Donaldson are now taking over the reins on Middle Abbey Street with plans for “a contemporary performance space that draws influence from the Victorian music hall style”. A venue spokesman says that the refurbishment has cost €1 million with the emphasis on “improving the main room”, though there have been “refurbishments and improvements made across all three rooms” in the venue.
Asked if this means a revamp for Academy 2, still at the time of writing the worst venue in the country, the spokesman said that “changes to Academy 2 will be mostly cosmetic, but we will supply more info ASAP”. Given that that particular space would be best suited at present to wintering cattle, it will be interesting to see what difference “cosmetic” changes will make to the horrific experience that is seeing a live band in that room.
What’s also noteworthy is that, per the spokesman, the venue will be open to non-MCD promoters to hire. The main room has always been a very decent live room so it will be interesting to see what, if any, non-MCD shows will go in there in due course.
The first show in the new revamped venue will be Seth Troxler this Friday night.