Brixton Academy: Met Police offered power to veto events as hearings begin after Asake concert deaths

A Brixton Academy licensing hearing has begun after two people died outside an Asake concert on December 15, 2022.
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Venue bosses judged the O2 Academy Brixton gig outside which two people died in a crowd crush to be one of the highest risk events last year, it has been revealed.

The Asake concert on December 15 was one of just eight events at the O2 Academy Brixton in 2022 to be given the top two scores of four or five for risk, according to Philip Colvin, a solicitor representing the venue’s operator, Academy Music Group (AMG).

Mr Colvin made the remarks at the opening of a two-day licensing hearing at Lambeth Town Hall, where the venue’s future will be decided by councillors.

The O2 Academy Brixton has been shut since the fatal crush in December last year. Gabrielle Hutchinson, 23, a security worker, and mum-of-two Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, a nursing graduate, died from injuries they sustained outside the venue. A 21-year-old woman injured on the night remains in a serious condition in hospital.

The Met Police has made an application to Lambeth Council to revoke AMG’s licence to run the O2 Academy Brixton, which would effectively see it shut for good unless a new operator takes over. AMG has lodged its own request with the council for permission to reopen.

Speaking at the licensing hearing on September 11, Mr Colvin said that just eight events at the venue were given the highest risk rating last year. Three of those gigs were the triplet of shows put on by Afrobeats singer Asake at the venue in December 2022.

The events were given the lesser rating of four rather than five, based on the judgement that Asake’s genre “was not pure Afrobeats but Afropop,” Mr Colvin said.

“It was assessed as level four, with the demographic as predominantly female,” he said.

Mr Colvin said that a similar but more detailed risk assessment for each event at the venue would be shared with Lambeth Council and the Met Police in the future if Brixton Academy was to reopen. He added that the Met Police would be able to cancel any show as part of the conditions of the O2 Academy Brixton’s proposed new licence.

Rebecca Ikumelo, 33 (left) and Gaby Hutchinson, 23 (right) both died following the concert crush at the Brixton AcademyRebecca Ikumelo, 33 (left) and Gaby Hutchinson, 23 (right) both died following the concert crush at the Brixton Academy
Rebecca Ikumelo, 33 (left) and Gaby Hutchinson, 23 (right) both died following the concert crush at the Brixton Academy

Councillor Fred Cowell, chair of the licensing committee, expressed concern that a system that associated certain types of music with risk could discriminate against Black music genres.

He said: “I have a broader concern about how this process will become a proxy for certain forms of discriminatory behaviour. Because in the documents… there were a number of different thresholds for risk associated with genres of music and four and five were associated with hip hop and Afrobeats.”

Mr Colvin said the O2 Academy Brixton is “deeply proud” of the music it put on and described Black music as the cultural “beating heart” of London. He said it is not a case of “saying there shall not be music” of particular genres, but rather a case of judging whether there had been “previous disorder” associated with artists’ events.

Mr Colvin defended the O2 Academy Brixton’s preparation for the Asake gig on December 15, saying 165 security staff worked on the night – the highest number ever to be employed at the venue.

He added: “Nobody looking in from the outside would have said ‘these are the wrong measures’ or ‘these are insufficient measures.’”

The hearing continues.