Brixton Academy ordered to shut until January after crowd crush which left two dead

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

The O2 Academy in Brixton has been ordered to shut until January after a crowd crush at an Asake gig last week left two people dead.

Lambeth council said the venue must remain closed until a hearing in the New Year, where the future of the O2 Academy will be decided.

The Met asked Lambeth council to temporarily close the 4,900-capacity venue following the incident on December 15.

The gig, by Afrobeats singer Asake, was cut short following the crush in which several people were seriously injured.

Gaby Hutchinson, 23, who was working as security on the night, died in hospital on December 19 after being injured in the crush.

Mother-of-two Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, from Newham, died on December 17.

A 21-year-old woman remains in a critical condition in hospital.

Explaining the decision to close the venue, Cllr Fred Cowell, chairman of the council’s licensing committee, said: “Given the severity of events of December 15, the risks to public safety as a consequence of serious disorder arising from a lack of crowd control at the front doors of the venue remain high if the venue was able to operate as before.”

Details of an incident outside the O2 Academy Brixton in February 2020, where a person was injured when a large crowd pushed up against the venue’s locked doors, were shared at the council licensing meeting today.

Describing the 2020 incident, Gerald Gouriet, representing the Met, said: “Staff who were located on the outside of the door were getting crushed against the door.

“At one point it looked like the crowd was going to crash through one of the doors and let the crowd outside in.

“That is of course what happened last Thursday.

“A fight broke out and it took officers about an hour to disperse people from the venue. Concerns were raised about the strength of the front doors.”

Videos on social media from the night of the Asake gig show crowds gathered outside the venue’s doors – one of which was smashed.

Stephen Walsh representing the Academy Music Group Limited, which holds the licence for the O2 Academy Brixton, said that the venue had changed its policies and procedures following the February 2020 incident.

Staff from the O2 Academy Brixton met with the police and they were satisfied with the changes at the time, according to Mr Walsh.

He argued there was no reason for the council to suspend the venue’s licence as the O2 Academy Brixton had already agreed to close voluntarily until a full licence hearing in January next year.

The council has the option to close the venue permanently at that meeting.

The future of the venue will be decided at a council licensing meeting scheduled for January 16 2023.

Pictured top: The aftermath of the incident at the O2 Academy in Brixton (Picture: PA)

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