jakub | September 15, 2023

Brixton Academy allowed to retain license and re-open

London’s O2 Academy in Brixton has been given the green light to keep its license and re-open, following closure due to a fatal crowd crush last year.

The hearing into the future of the venue began on Monday (September 11), to determine whether or not the Academy Music Group (AMG) could continue to operate their licence at the music venue, after it was forced to shut its doors following a fatal crowd crush that occurred at an Asake concert back in December 2022.

The event — which left two dead and one in a critical condition — ultimately led to the Academy having its licence suspended. Gabrielle Hutchinson, aged 23, and 33-year-old Rebecca Ikumelo lost their lives as a result. The Metropolitan Police then made a push for the location to close its doors for good.

The O2 Academy Brixton on September 11, 2023, the day a hearing to decide its future began. Credit: Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Now, Lambeth Council have announced today (Friday September 15) that the Academy can reopening, provided that it meets 77 “extensive and robust” conditions “designed to promote public safety”.

Potential re-opening dates are yet to be shared. NME has approached Academy Music Group for comment.

DJ and London Night Czar Amy Lamé, commented on what the ruling meant for Brixton and for the capital’s music scene.

“Firstly, my heart goes out to the families and loved ones of Gaby and Rebecca and the woman who remains in a critical condition in hospital following the awful events at O2 Brixton Academy,” said wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

“I know how cherished the O2 Brixton Academy is by artists, fans and the local community and how important it is to the UK’s live music scene. I am pleased that Lambeth Council are satisfied that the O2 Brixton Academy can be safely reopened by Academy Music Group.”

She added: “The decision today rightly follows a detailed examination of evidence and the presentation of new plans that will ensure nothing like the tragic incident last year can ever happen again.”

“We are pleased to announce that Brixton Academy will retain its license and is poised to reopen, marking a momentous milestone in safeguarding this cherished landmark,” said Night Time Industry Association CEO Michael Kill. “Our profound appreciation goes out to the countless supporters and stakeholders who rallied behind us during this critical juncture.

“Brixton Academy has consistently held a special place in the hearts of music aficionados, and its cultural significance is immeasurable. We have consistently advocated for its safe reopening, and today’s decision reaffirms our unwavering commitment to ensuring its continued success as a hub for live music and entertainment.”

He continued: “We also recognise the profound responsibility that accompanies this, and acknowledge the tragic events of last December, which resulted in the loss of two lives.
“We are resolute in our commitment to supporting the implementation of the agreed stringent safety measures to prevent any such tragedy from recurring. Our paramount concern remains the safety and enjoyment of all those who enjoy nightlife.”

Brixton's O2 Academy is cordoned by police off on December 16, 2022 at the Brixton O2 Academy in London, England
Brixton’s O2 Academy is cordoned by police off on December 16, 2022 at the Brixton O2 Academy in London, England. CREDIT: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

George Fleming from the campaign group Save Our Scene, added: “We are feeling a huge sense of relief that Brixton Academy is safeguarded for the future, as will many others.”

“We recognise this was a tragic case and welcome all of the new safety measures which have been implemented by AMG and Lambeth Council. The public support for this venue has been immense and we’d like to thank everyone who rallied together and signed the various petitions and campaigns.”

Earlier this week, the sub-committee heard how Brixton Academy is “a venue of economic and cultural importance”, with AMG arguing that “the Academy is not one of those venues on the police radar”.

“In 2022, the venue held 174 shows, 108 sell-outs,” said Philip Kolvin QC, speaking on behalf on AMG. “During the whole of that year, there was one police call for assistance. Every venue has to call the police from time-to-time.”

The hearing was then told of the venue’s refusal of racial profiling and AMG’S ambitious plans to improve ticketing and safety, before things concluded with Lambeth Council saying that they supported the re-opening of Brixton Academy “in principle” if a series of conditions are met. The Met Police meanwhile, denied that they were looking to close the venue – but say that they believe current operator AMG “shouldn’t be the licensee” if the Academy is to open its doors again.

Since the venue’s closure in December, an online petition was launched to counteract the closure while various artists and industry professionals also spoke out against the potential shutting down of the venue. So far it has attracted over 116,000 signatures.

Stuart O’Brien, who started the petition, told this week’s hearing: “We don’t close sporting venues when tragedy strikes. What we do is take measures nationwide that keep everyone safe when attending those events. The same needs to happen here.

“It is not the building that is to blame for this tragedy, and providing the owner acts on the recommendations that are put to them, I’m sure we can maintain a safe environment for everyone in the future.”

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