GEOCON High Society Masthead

Academy tonight? A Civic giant shuts its doors

Beatrice Smith

Two weeks ago, Academy Club revealed plans to close after 15 years as an integral part of Canberra’s dance music scene. So what does the future look like?

For many, the shuttering of the after dark icon will just be another loss in the ever-turning wheel of Canberra hospitality, but for others, losing Academy will represent the end of an era for Civic nightlife.

Canberra’s first and only true superclub—created in the image of European venues like Pacha and Ministry of Sound—Academy in its heyday was something of a monolith. With a line outside that stretched to the end of the block, the cavernous interior would be packed each Thursday to Saturday, with huge international acts gracing the stage, from Calvin Harris to Justice. As well as boasting big names, however, Academy also helped kickstart the careers of homegrown talents like Peking Duk, Timmy Trumpet and SAFIA.

Ashley Feraude, who spent five years as Academy’s Saturday night resident DJ in the coveted midnight to 2 am slot says that playing at Academy was always an exercise in high stress and huge reward, as hundreds of people’s enjoyment hung in the balance of his song selection.

“I spent five years there and it was interesting because the club went through some ups and downs, like any large establishments,” he says. “They changed their music policy and they become more inclusive. The student market came in and then by the time I got there, it was doing really well.”

While Ashley says the original formula for Academy was of a European-style superclub, it was when Academy decided to focus and foster local acts that it started to peak in both popularity and community.

“They decided that if they invested in the local audience and local deejays and built them up, no matter what night people went, they’d have a great time,” he explains. “They said ‘right, for Saturdays we’ll rotate our locals’ and that kind of support really paid off and it created a community.”

Co-owner Frank Condi, who has been involved with Academy across its entire 15-year history, agrees that some of the club’s biggest highlights have included local and Australian talent, and fondly remembers some of Peking Duk and SAFIA’s first performances. He also remembers taking all the staff for a trip up to Sydney to see then little-known act Sneaky Sound System, who Academy then hosted the next week.

“There have been so many artists come through that you lose memory of the artists and just remember nights,” he says.

In terms of the international superstars, however, Calvin Harris, Flo Rida and Justice’s performances at Academy have stayed in Frank’s mind.

“It’s hard to pick any one favourite,” he says. “They were all pretty amazing.”

It will be one of these amazing nights that Frank hopes to farewell Academy with, when it opens its doors one last time this Saturday 21 April.

“We’ve got Will Sparks coming and he’s quite the entertainer so that’s going to be a big night,” he says. “There’ll be lights, DJs—like a festival in a room. And for that last night, we’ll be putting on even more lights, even more entertainment.”

As I wrote previously, Canberra nightlife has shifted dramatically over the last decade, partly due to tightening alcohol restrictions and partly due to changing tastes. Those who, like me, were introduced to Civic a decade ago would not recognise the Civic of today. When I wrote that piece, however, I never assumed that Academy Club would go the way of ICBM, Meche, Tongue and Groove, and North Bar. Somehow it seemed invincible.

But Ashley says that it’s definitely not the end of days. For Canberra clubbing or dance music.

“Even with Academy closing, it’s not the end of all things and it doesn’t actually show any slowing down of a clubbing culture in Canberra. It just means something else will pop up and will evolve into a new thing. It’s up to the Canberra community to go out and support dance music culture elsewhere—which they will.”

Academy’s final party will be held this Saturday 21 April from 10 pm onwards. No tickets needed. 

Feature image: facebook.com/academy.club

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author