100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 28 – O2 Academy

The O2 Academy Bournemouth is actually in Boscombe. This Victorian venue has been entertaining people since 1895. A bit like a cat, it seems to have had nine lives, having served as a theatre, circus, music hall, disco and now mainly as a live music venue.

O2 Academy - Front
O2 Academy – Front

Boscombe is a suburb a mile or so to the east of Bournemouth. It is easily reached by bus, with the venue just a few minutes’ walk from Boscombe Bus Station. The train station is a bit further away (approximately 15 minutes walk). There is plenty of parking at Hawkwood Road (pay & display).

Elephants parading through Boscombe

The O2 Academy started out as the Grand Pavilion, famed for its circus, with the elephants parading along the high street and even taking a dip in the sea. Then, in 1898 it became The Boscombe Grand Theatre – primarily a music hall. In 1905 it became the Boscombe Hippodrome and then in 1956 the Royal Ballrooms – a dance hall.

Packed Hippodrome in 1908

In 70s and 80s, it operated mainly as a night club. Plenty of big names performed here during this period. David Bowie for £1 anyone? In 1982, it underwent a major refurbishment and reopened as The Academy, with the questionable claim to fame of hosting the UK’s first Karaoke bar. In 1997, it became The Opera House, and disco ‘Slinky’ became one of the UK’s top dance clubs.

Ticket to see David Bowie in Boscombe

After another refurbishment, it reopened in 2007 and became the O2 Academy shortly afterwards, focusing on live music, with Florence and the Machine first up to perform.

O2 Academy - Stiff Little Fingers
O2 Academy (Stiff Little Fingers)

It has hosted many top name artists – past performers range from Laurel and Hardy to the likes of David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. We went to see the slightly less famous Stiff Little Fingers. Nevertheless, it was a great night in an impressive venue.

O2 Academy (Stiff Little Fingers)
O2 Academy (Stiff Little Fingers)

During our visit (in March 2022) the audience was restricted to the ground level, with the upper tiers being cordoned off. The hall has a grand yet informal atmosphere and great acoustics. Unlike a lot of venues I’ve visited, the queues for the bar and toilets were short and drinks were reasonably priced.

O2 Academy - Side
O2 Academy – Side

In addition, there are plenty of nice places to eat and drink in Boscombe to make a night of it. We had a great meal before the gig at nearby Thai Smile, with one of the support acts sitting at the next table. Drinking beer sitting next to a former Sex Pistol. There’s one to tell the grandchildren. Except I don’t have any grandchildren and if I did, they probably wouldn’t know who the Sex Pistols were…


3 responses to “100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 28 – O2 Academy”

  1. […] O2 Academy Bournemouth is actually in Boscombe. This Victorian venue has been entertaining people since 1895. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.