London’s O2 Academy Brixton has been permitted to reopen as a music venue so long as it meets “extensive and robust” new safety measures, following a fatal crowd crush last year.
The 5,000-capacity venue has been closed after two people died and several people were seriously injured during a crowd stampede outside a sold-out concert by Nigerian singer Asake on Dec. 15, 2022. A 21-year-old woman injured on the night remains in hospital in a critical condition.
In an announcement on Friday (Sept. 15), Lambeth Council said the venue would be allowed to host live music events again but “only once it is compliant” with 77 new safety conditions.
They include stronger doors, new crowd management systems, more detailed risk assessments, a new ticketing system, a new centralised control and command centre, as well as new security and management.
Responding to the council’s decision, which followed a two-day hearing, O2 Academy Brixton owner and operator Academy Music Group (AMG) said it was “committed to ensuring” the tragic events of Dec. 15 “can never be repeated.”
“Our heartfelt condolences remain with the family and friends of [victims] Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson,” the London-based company said in a statement.
AMG said it will hold test events before reopening O2 Academy Brixton at an unspecified date.
Crowd management company Showsec has been brought in to look after security for the venue, replacing AP Security, which has been criticized for its operation at Brixton, including allegations that some staff regularly took bribes to let people into concerts without tickets.
When O2 Academy Brixton reopens, operators AMG will be subject to “rigorous independent scrutiny to ensure public safety,” said Lambeth Council’s licensing sub-committee.
“The robust, far-reaching and enforceable measures we have determined must be taken by the Academy, subject to independent oversight and scrutiny, will result in [it] being among the most highly regulated licensed venues in the country,” said the council committee in its 50-page report.
During the two-day hearing to determine whether O2 Academy Brixton should reopen, much of which was held in private, London’s Metropolitan Police said it didn’t have confidence in AMG — which runs 18 music venues across the U.K. — as the licensee, but didn’t want to see the building permanently closed.
The hearing saw several other people speak in favour of AMG’s application, including local businesses and music promoter Mazin Tappuni, who told the committee that the closure of O2 Academy Brixton was putting off some international artists from visiting the U.K. because of a shortage of similarly sized venues in the British capital.
More than 110,000 people signed an online petition to save the historic venue, which opened in 1929 as a cinema and began hosting live music gigs in the early 1980s. The Smiths, David Bowie, Madonna, Bob Dylan, Blur and the Clash are just a few of the famous acts to have played there.
“Brixton Academy has consistently held a special place in the hearts of music aficionados, and its cultural significance is immeasurable,” said Michael Kill, CEO of trade group The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), in a statement welcoming the council’s decision.
Kill said the venue’s safe reopening would help ensure “its continued success as a hub for live music and entertainment.”
A police investigation into whether any criminal offences were committed on Dec. 15, 2022, is ongoing.