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Asake returns to London and pays tribute to Brixton Academy crush victims

The Afrobeats star played a pre-recorded poem before his first London show since the tragedy

By Joe Goggins

Livestream screengrab of on stage at London's O2 Arena, August 20, 2023
Asake on stage at London's O2 Arena last night (August 20). (Photo: YouTube)

Asake has played his first London show since last December’s tragedy at Brixton Academy last December, heading The O2 Arena last night.

The Afrobeats star took a moment to pay tribute to the two people who lost their lives in a crowd crush outside his show in Brixton. Arriving on stage 90 minutes after his advertised stage time, he opened his show at The O2 with a three-minute poem that reflected on the tragedy – you can see footage taken from the official live stream below.

The pre-recorded verse played shortly before he was dropped off on stage by a prop helicopter, as backing performers dressed all in white emerged holding bouquets of flowers. “Up at 02:30 thinking Gaby Hutchinson could be me,” read one line, in tribute to the 23-year-old member of security staff who lost their life in Brixton. “Rest well and be free, rest in peace Rebecca, our sister,” read another, a tribute to Rebecca Ikumelo, a 33-year-old mother-of-two also killed outside Asake’s show in south London last year.

“I know some feel loss and some regret,” the poem also said. “We need to hold this moment. I need to hold this moment. They need to hold this moment.” Visuals on screens behind Asake played contemporaneous news reports of the crush (per The Independent). A 21-year-old woman also injured in the crush remains in a critical condition in hospital eight months later, and police are continuing to appeal for information.

Brixton Academy has been closed since the crush, with music fans fearing for the venue’s future after the Metropolitan Police applied for its license to be permanently revoked back in April. “On Monday 16 January, the licence of the O2 Academy Brixton was suspended for three months,” read a statement from the Met at the time. “On 14 April, the Met police submitted an application for a review of [the] premises licence to Lambeth Council and will be seeking a revocation of the licence. This matter will be decided at a future council sub-committee hearing on a date to be confirmed.”

At a licensing meeting, Gerald Gouriet KC, representing the Met, claimed that a crowd of around 1000 people outside the venue caused “large-scale disorder” that eventually led to its doors being forced open. Since, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has urged fans to help save Brixton Academy by expressing support for their lobbying efforts. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill told BBC News that the venue is “hugely important to the cultural economy of London and the UK and without doubt one of the landmark performance venues in the world”.