February 5, 2023

The O2 Academy Brixton’s license has been suspended after two people died in the blink of an eye and others were injured at the south London venue.

Fans attending a performance by Afrobeats singer Asake were trapped outside in a crowd last Thursday night when a large number of people tried to enter the venue, leading to two deaths. A third person is still in critical condition and eight others required hospital care.

The venue is closed and Lambeth councilors have suspended the permit until January 16, when a full hearing will take place. As a result, five performances are cancelled.

Mahamed Hashi, Lambeth’s Cabinet Member for Safer Communities, said: “A tragic incident has occurred in our municipality and we are dealing with its devastating impact on our communities. Our thoughts are with those who suffered, especially the families and friends of Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson, who tragically lost their lives.”

Asake and an employee on stage at Brixton Academy
Asake and an employee tell the audience that the show has been cancelled. Photo: @seunomis/Twitter

The Metropolitan Police asked the council on Tuesday for a quick summary of O2 Academy Brixton, indicating that police believed the site was “associated with serious crime or serious disorder”.

At the board’s licensing committee meeting, the Met said there had been a similar crush at a concert by Naira Marley, another Afrobeats singer, in 2020, when concerns were raised about the strength of the front doors.

Stephen Walsh KC, representing the Academy Music Group, said the O2 Academy is “a responsible and experienced operator working closely with the authorities” and that as the venue had voluntarily closed, a temporary suspension was not necessary.

Clearly, he said it was “much too early” to point the finger of blame, but that the venue acknowledged “the seriousness of the events” and conducted an internal investigation.

Councilors determined that as the voluntary closure was not legally enforceable and that although the facts of what happened that night were not yet clear, risks to public safety remained “resulting in particular from serious disorder resulting from a lack of safety”. of crowd control at the front doors” if the location was opened without new crowd control procedures being introduced.

In its application for the summary review, the Met said its officers found that security personnel had “completely lost control of the situation” when they arrived at the site.

The force said it had launched a “major and complex investigation” due to the “extremely serious nature of the incident” and requested that the site’s permit be temporarily suspended while officers determined what deficiencies led to the incident and what can be done to prevent repetition.

As part of the criminal investigation, specialist officers review CCTV and phone footage, speak to witnesses, conduct forensics, and review photos, videos and information submitted online by citizens.

In a statement, Lambeth councilors said they were “determined that answers needed to be found as to why these terrible events took place” through an “urgent, in-depth review” of whether the site met the legal conditions for its permit, including public safety arrangements.

The incident was initially attributed to hundreds of people showing up without tickets, with the announcement that “3,000 people broke down the door outside” when Asake had to end the performance after just two songs.

However, witness accounts have raised serious questions about security at the site and an alleged heavy-handed police response, which is under review by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards.

The councilors said: “This assessment will be part of the ongoing effort to seek answers and ensure that such an incident never happens again.”

The O2 Academy Brixton has been approached for comment.

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