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Olivia Stock
13 September 2023, 12:22

Decision on Brixton Academy’s future to be made “within five working days”, Lambeth Council says

Reopening of the venue is supported by Lambeth Council “in principle”, but Met Police say AMG should not be licensee

Photo of the iconic dome of the O2 Academy Brixton against a dark blue sky
O2 Academy Brixton via X

Following the conclusion of the two-day public hearing, Lambeth Council have advised that a decision on the future of Brixton Academy will be made “within five working days”, NME reports.

The south London music venue’s licence was suspended last December following a fatal crowd crush, which killed two people and left another seriously injured. The Metropolitan Police reportedly called for Lambeth Council to revoke Brixton Academy’s licence permanently, saying they had “lost confidence” in the venue operator, Academy Music Group (AMG).

The second and final day of a licensing hearing into the venue’s future was held at Lambeth Town Hall yesterday (12th September), over eight months since the nightspot’s licence was first suspended. After the morning was spent in private session, the public afternoon session opened with Lambeth Council barrister Horatio Waller QC outlining the conditions for the venue’s potential re-opening.

Waller said that venue operator AMG – which runs 18 music venues across the UK – had performed a “complete overhaul” of their security procedures and attitude towards risk assessments since the December tragedy, according to the NME.

The council “supports, in principle, the re-opening of the venue” based upon new conditions, Waller said. These conditions include a “new, revised system for ingress [entry] into the venue” and the introduction of new barriers “positioned on the highway,” for which a temporary traffic regulation order would be required.

“This is much more comprehensive, prescriptive and controlled than the system that existed on December 15,” Waller continued. “The tragedy likely would not have occurred if that system was in place.”

Mr Philip Kolvin QC, representing the AMG, drew particular attention to the installation of new strengthened doors at the venue. “At the time of this incident, the doors were unable to withstand a mass and violent attack,” he said. “In other words, the premises were not a fortress, they were a concert hall."

He continued: "Even if you consider the doors should have been more robust at an earlier stage, that is a matter of blame which is for other processes to investigate. It does not require these premises to shut down any more than any other public or private premises that are compulsorily closed following accidents, even terrible accidents.

“The doors have now been strengthened so as to be resilient against pressure, even if it did occur,” he added.

Despite these new security procedures being “independently audited” by consultants and sanctioned as “comprehensive and robust”, the Metropolitan Police stated their sustained opposition to Brixton Academy doors again under the licencehood of AMG.

“The police have brought a review of the licence because they think that the Academy Music Group shouldn’t be the licensee,” said Gerald Gouriet KC, legal counsel for the Met Police. “I am not permitted to go further into the reasons of why the police say so, but I do wish that no-one carries the idea from this room that the police are trying to shut down the Academy. They simply aren’t.”

Mr Gouriet KC went on to dismiss reports in the media and online that the Met want to see the venue shutter permanently. “The police do not wish to close the Academy,” he said in a closing argument. “I’ve read again and again in the press and on social media that the police are trying to shut down the Academy permanently. That is simply not the case.”

Following the culmination of the hearing, the committee will begin its deliberations on whether to grant a new licence for the venue on Wednesday (13th September).

Since the nightspot’s closure in December, an online petition has been launched to appeal against the closure while various artists and industry professionals have also spoken out against the potential shutting down of the venue. So far it has attracted over 116,000 signatures.

Sister Bliss shared her support for the cause, tweeting: “Faithless have graced the stage there many times — and yet a terrible tragedy happened there only recently. But it is hugely short sighted to shut the venue permanently- generating jobs, local economy- bringing the best music to London! #SaveBrixtonAcademy.”

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) also launched a campaign alongside Save Our Scene and Brixton BID to keep Brixton’s O2 Academy open. You can support their campaign here.

Read the full report on the licence hearing from the NME here.