Brixton Academy: Will it reopen, when will results be announced, council hearing explained - what happened?

Brixton Academy cordoned off the morning after the crush incident (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Brixton Academy cordoned off the morning after the crush incident (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Councillors are to make a decision regarding the future of Brixton Academy following a fatal crush at the venue last year.

The Metropolitan Police requested the council revoke the licence of the music venue in south London, which could result in its permanent closure.

But what actually happened at the London venue, and will it ever reopen? Here is everything you need to know.

What is Brixton Academy?

Brixton Academy is one of London's most iconic and historically significant music venues, and has played a pivotal role in the city's cultural and musical history.

Originally opened in 1929 as a cinema and theatre, the Academy has a storied history, having hosted a wide range of events over the decades, from concerts to boxing matches.

Despite its large capacity (around 4,921 standing or 2,391 seated), Brixton Academy is known for its intimate atmosphere, with a sloping floor and balcony seating ensuring audience members have a great view of the stage wherever they are.

The venue has seen countless legendary performances from some of the world's most iconic musicians and bands - artists such as The Clash, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Prince, and The Prodigy have all graced its stage.

What happened at Brixton Academy?

When people without tickets attempted to enter a performance by Nigerian artist Asake on 15 December 2022, the resulting crush claimed the lives of Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, and security guard Gaby Hutchinson, 23.

About 1,000 people were outside the venue and police found “large-scale disorder” with crowds eventually pushing the doors open, according to Gerald Gouriet KC, who represented the Met at the earlier licensing meeting.

A police investigation was launched and the Security Industry Authority opened an inquiry into corruption allegations made after the crush.

Met Police Detective Chief Inspector Nigel Penney revealed in June that a criminal investigation was being conducted involving a range of potential offences such as “corporate manslaughter, criminal negligence manslaughter, unlawful act manslaughter and health and safety at work offences along with violent disorder and offences against the person or assaults”.

Will Brixton Academy ever reopen?

A two-day hearing of Lambeth Council’s licensing subcommittee began on Monday (11 September), and will decide whether the O2 Academy Brixton is safe for use.

Councillors previously suspended the venue’s licence for three months and the decision was supported by the venue’s owner, Academy Music Group (AMG), which offered its condolences to the families of those who died.

Earlier this year, a spokesperson for AMG said: “AMG has co-operated fully with the Metropolitan Police and Lambeth Council since the tragedy at Brixton occurred.

“We have had regular meetings and discussions with the Metropolitan Police and Lambeth Council at which we have presented detailed proposals that we believe will enable the venue to reopen safely. The review of our licence will take place through the formal process with Lambeth Council in due course.”

In May, an online petition to “Save Brixton Academy” was signed by more than 50,000 people. The petition, created by Stuart O’Brien and directed to Lambeth Council, said that the “iconic” venue’s closure would result in “another part of the musical landscape and history” being “lost forever”.

“What happened there was a tragedy, but caused by people,” the petition’s description said. "Revoke the security firm’s licence and bring in someone adequate recommended by the police… Bring in new security procedures including crowd control to ensure a repeat doesn’t happen.

“But let’s not turn this venue into soulless flats as would more than likely happen in the event of permanent closure.”

Many bands and performers who were scheduled to play at Brixton Academy ahead of the closure rescheduled dates to take place at London's Troxy, roughly six miles away in Stepney. The two venues are of a similar size, though the Troxy holds approximately 1,000 fewer concertgoers.

“We’re wishing our friends over at Brixton Academy the very best,” the venue said ahead of the hearing. “As an important local, cultural and historical landmark we are fully behind this campaign and are hoping they receive good news.”

When will the results of the hearing be known?

Following the two-day hearing, it is expected a decision will be made on Brixton Academy's future within five working days.