The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Brixton Academy To Reopen Once It Meets New Safety Conditions
Christian Eede , September 19th, 2023 14:39

The London music venue has been closed since a fatal crush there in December

The O2 Academy Brixton has been given the go-ahead to reopen in the near future after its owners agreed to meet 77 "extensive and robust" safety measures following a fatal crush at the venue in December.

The venue has been closed since the crush, which took place during a gig by the Afrobeats artist Asake. Academy Music Group (AMG), which runs the venue, temporarily lost its licence as a result of the incident, which killed 33-year-old Rebecca Ikumelo and 23-year-old security guard Gaby Hutchinson. A third woman, aged 21, who was hurt in the crush remains in hospital in a critical condition, while a police investigation is ongoing.

During a two-day hearing heard by Lambeth Council's licensing subcommittee this week, Philip Kolvin KC, representing AMG, expressed "deep sorrow" for the families of the victims of the crush, and added that the venue operator had carried out a "root and branch exercise" to work out how to improve safety at the venue.

The licensing subcommittee voted in favour of the venue being allowed to reopen, subject to it meeting the new safety conditions set out. One of those conditions will see AMG terminate its contract with AP Security, which was responsible for security on the night of the crush and has come under heavy criticism for its handling of both that night and other past gigs at the venue.

The minimum number of security guards required on shift for an event will be increased, and AMG will now defer security to another firm, Showsec, which manages security at AMG's 17 other venues across the UK.

Another change to the venue will see the entry doors, which were breached on the night of the crush, strengthened significantly. Figures from the Metropolitan Police had said during the licensing hearing that they first raised concerns about the weakness of the venue's entry doors with venue management in February 2020, over two years before the crush took place.

Speaking on behalf of Lambeth Council after the licensing hearing was beough to a close, Horatio Waller KC said: "We have not shied away from our duty to identify what went wrong and where responsibility lies. This is necessary to ensure lessons can be learned. This is much more comprehensive, prescriptive and controlled than the system that existed on 15 December. The tragedy likely would not have occurred if that system was in place."

O2 Academy Brixton is expected to announce a timeline to reopening soon. A series of test events are set to take place before the venue fully reopens, with details of those also expected soon.

A statement from AMG said: "Over the past nine months the venue's importance to the local community and the live music scene in the UK has been made clear through first-hand professional testimony, campaigns and petitions, as well as economic assessments demonstrating the financial impact to the surrounding area caused by the closure.

"Academy Music Group is determined to learn all appropriate lessons from the night of December 15, 2022. Working at a senior level with experts across all disciplines, AMG presented a comprehensive, multi-faceted response for the licensing authorities to support their case for the safe and secure reopening of the venue."