Brixton Academy opens doors again more than a year after fatal crush

The O2 Brixton Academy reopened its doors, under a heavy security presence, more than a year after it was forced to close following a deadly crowd crush.

Without any fanfare the doors reopened on Friday to concertgoers at the south London venue for the first time since the crush which killed two people in December 2022, behind a cordon of dozens of security guards in high-vis jackets.

There was a strong presence security presence outside and very few customers in queues to get in the building “it almost looks like overkill”.

As he joined the small but quick-moving queue of customers who were set to see a Nirvana tribute act, chef Ben Wade, 19, of Ramsgate, Kent, said: “It almost looks like overkill, so I think it is probably going to be quite safe.”

Security guard Gaby Hutchinson, 23, and mother-of-two Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, were killed when fans without tickets tried to force their way into a show by Nigerian artist Asake at the venue on December 15 2022.

A 22-year-old woman who was left in a serious condition remains in hospital.

Security guards also patrolled the block around the south London inner city venue.

An ambulance and a welfare van were parked outside.

Customers were sent around the back of the building and tickets seemed to be checked more than once before they got to the front entrance where an x-ray scanner was being used.

O2 Brixton Academy reopens
The O2 Brixton Academy reopened its doors more than a year after it was forced to close following a deadly crowd crush (Helen William/PA)

Mr Wade said: “I am glad they are showing awareness of what happened because it was catastrophic and hopefully nothing like that can happen again.

“The last time I came here, it was a completely different set up.

“It looks monumentally different.

“We used to walk just straight in through the door and you did not see this many people in hi-vis – it looks completely different.

“I think there is a fear that they don’t want anything to happen like that again.

“I think if something did happen again – it would be completely catastrophic for the venue .

“It almost looks like overkill, so I think it is probably going to be quite safe.”

The south London venue faced permanent closure after the Metropolitan Police urged the council to remove its licence but following a two-day hearing in September 2023, Lambeth Council’s licensing sub-committee voted to allow the venue to continue operating, so long as it meets “77 extensive and robust new conditions”.

About 1,000 people were outside the venue on the night the pair were killed and police found “large-scale disorder” with crowds eventually pushing the doors open.

When the doors were breached the crowd poured into the lobby towards the auditorium and surged over people who had fallen to the floor.

Academy Music Group (AMG) Limited, the venue owner, had said it had developed new safety measures at the venue in the wake of the tragedy, including stronger doors, a better queuing system and more secure ticketing.

Sharon Sullivan, 55, an NHS administrator of Morden, south London, said she expected to feel “a bit eery” as she got in to the building and where the fatal crush ocurred.

She said: “I think it is good that it has reopened.

“I am pleased even though I think that what happened was awful and tragic. South London needs venues and this is one of the best ones here.

“It has probably been about 40 years that I have been coming here for various gigs and I have never encountered a problem but you know security has not always been at its best.

“I think that having these tribute acts means they are not going to sell out and it is a gentle reopening.

“It is not a band that is going to sell it out and there is going to be a problem.

“This is just easing back into it.”

Her husband Richard, 56, an adult education facilities manager, said: “I think the venue is important but the security, from when we used to come to concerts in the past, has not been great.

“They are obviously, with the tribute acts, able to just test what works and what doesn’t. It is a soft launch.”

Kai Harding, 18, of Ware, Herts, thought is was “quite likely” that a strong show of security was being enforced on reopening after the tragedy.

He said: “Revamping security and upgrading it is obviously a necessity because of what happened but it believe it should not have taken 16 months to reopen.

“I feel that would have disrupted the community and made them feel a little bit more uneasy.”

Student Alex Middleton, 16, of Broxbourne, Herts, said: “Seeing as it has been closed for a while you would expect that they have tightened up security and made things safer.

“There must have been something pretty wrong in the first place for it to take that long to reopen.”

Luke Yates, 18, of Ware, Herts, said: “I feel safer that there is more security – it won’t do any harm.”

Last month detectives who have examined 100s of hours of CCTV, taken more than 500 witness statements and seized over 5,000 pieces of evidence, made an appeal to identify a number of people they wanted to speak to in relation to incident.

They said a 26-year-old man had voluntarily attended an east London police station where he was interviewed under caution in connection with public order offences.