by Andy Tullis, Lifelong Brixton resident, Socialist Party member, and concert goer
Headbanging to Arch Enemy at the Brixton Academy last October seems like a distant memory, especially now the venue has been closed following a horrifying crowd crush in December 2022. Two people tragically lost their lives in the crush, and others were seriously injured, on the night of a gig by popular Afrobeats singer Asake.
On 16 January, Lambeth Council’s licensing committee extended the temporary suspension of the venue’s licence by three months, pending a review in April 2023, while investigations continue.
Concerns have been raised about understaffing, inadequate risk assessments, ‘fake tickets’, and the strength of the venue’s doors.
The ratio of security staff to crowd numbers was unsafe. Academy Music Group — the company that owns Brixton Academy — says that a gig like Asake’s needs more than 200 security staff. But it told the BBC, there were only 157 on the night.
A whistleblower, doing security on the night, alleges bribes were paid for allowing people in. The whistleblower told the BBC: “Our company knew what was going on… they knew the people who were doing it… and they did nothing”.
So, why didn’t the security company management stop it? These private companies only care about profit.
And the police had known about problems with the strength of the foyer doors at Brixton Academy for three years, but still did nothing.
Attendees on the night have criticised the police intervention as the incident unfolded. A video shows police officers with batons throwing a woman down the entrance stairs.
This tragedy was preventable. The owners and organisers must be held to account if the bereaved families are to have justice and closure.
Greedy property developers have eyed up Brixton Academy for years, wanting the site for luxury flats. At one point, it was going to be sold for use as a church, but a grassroots community campaign saved the Academy as a live music venue. Of course, Lambeth Labour group tried to take credit for this.
The heritage of this iconic venue truly belongs to the community and concert-going public. If permanent closure is threatened, a mass campaign to secure the Academy’s long-term future is needed.
Our venue, but privately owned
Why is Brixton Academy privately owned, with security provided by a profit-hungry private company? This community asset should be owned by the community. We need democratic community control of security and safety at entertainment venues.
The trade unions must campaign to fully unionise workers in the security industry, improving pay and conditions. Licensing committees should include elected trade union representatives, and others elected from the community. And local councils should fund free entertainment and arts projects, providing access to free resources, like rehearsal and venue space, for live performers.