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Brixton Academy
Brixton AcademyPhoto by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Met police are trying to shut down Brixton Academy

Following a tragic crowd crush last December, the Met has recommended that the venue’s license is permanently revoked

The 02 Academy in Brixton faces indefinite closure, after the Metropolitan police have called for Lambeth Council to revoke its license.

This comes after a crowd crush at an Asake gig last December, which led to two people – Gaby Hutchinson, 23, and Rebecca Ikumelo, 33 –  losing their lives, and many others being critically injured. On the night in question, around 1000 people were gathered outside the venue and the crowd eventually pushed the doors open. Despite initial reports, witnesses later claimed that many of those outside did have tickets to the gig. 

Following this incident, the venue’s operator, Academy Music Group (AGM) had their license suspended for at least three months. At this point, it was decided that AGM’s license would only be reinstated if the company implemented new measures to improve safety. But as reported in the Evening Standard, the Met issued a fresh submission last Monday, announcing that it had “lost confidence” in AGM and recommending that its license should be stripped permanently.

This decision is still not set in stone, and Lambeth councillors could choose to ignore the Met’s recommendations. AGM, who insist they are cooperating fully with the police, have submitted their own application, which, if approved, would allow its license to be renewed. A final decision will be made at a council meeting on May 15.

Public reaction to the Met’s decision has been mixed. On the one hand, Brixton Academy is an important cultural institution which has functioned as a music venue for 40 years. Its closure would represent a profound loss for the local area and London as a whole, particularly at a time when the city – as well as the rest of the UK – is already losing so many venues. What’s more, witnesses who were present at the crowd crush have claimed that the heavy-handed police response was itself a contributing factor to the tragedy. Following a recent series of scandals involving the Met, which exposed staggering levels of insitutional racism and police violence, the institution lacks moral authority when it comes to weighing in on matters of public safety.

But at the same time, the blame for what happened lies partly with AGM. A whistleblower working for the company told the BBC that there was not enough security working at the event – only 110 staff were on duty when, according to AGM’s own risk strategy, there should have been 190. The whistleblower also alleged that security staff (who work for a contracted company) regularly let in people without tickets in exchange for bribes. If AGM is even partially culpable for the tragic deaths of two people, it seems fair that it faces serious consequences. Even if the company does lose its license, it’s possible that another operator might step in, so whatever decision is reached won’t necessarily mean the end of the Brixton Academy as a venue. 

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