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New petition to save Brixton Academy from closure secures over 10,000 names

Among musicians to voice their support for the campaign was Jim Bob of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, who told Rolling Stone UK that it would be a "shame" to see the "iconic" South London venue closed for good

By Hollie Geraghty

Police forensic investigators seen outside Brixton Academy after a crowd crush during an Asake concert in Brixton. (Photo by Alamy/Thabo Jaiyesimi / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

A new petition to save Brixton Academy has scored thousands of signatures, after it was revealed that the venue faces permanent closure following a crowd crush that killed two people last December.

The South London venue’s licence was initially suspended by Lambeth Council for three months in January following the deaths of security guard Gaby Hutchinson, 23, and Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, who were killed in a crowd crush as fans tried to force entry into an Asake show. A third person was also critically injured.

Earlier this month, Metropolitan Police submitted an application for the Brixton venue’s licence to be revoked permanently.

A new petition has now been launched on, already surpassing its initial goal of 10,000 signees. “Brixton Academy is an iconic London music venue and should this cease to be so, another part of the musical landscape and history is lost forever,” the petition to Lambeth Council reads.

A police cordon outside the O2 Academy Brixton following the incident at an Asake gig (Picture: Alamy)

“What happened there was a tragedy, but caused by people,” it continues, suggesting that the security firm’s licence be revoked and more “adequate” support is introduced. It also makes reference to claims that bouncers were accepting bribes.

“Bring in new security procedures including crowd control to ensure a repeat doesn’t happen, but let’s not turn this venue into soulless flats as would more than likely happen in the event of permanent closure.”

The petition host, Stuart O’Brien, 46, added that he has been to “hundreds of gigs in my lifetime, many of them here and I have never once felt like safety was an issue!” It goes on: “The loss of this venue would also have a devastating affect on the local economy!”

In a follow-up post on the platform, O’Brien wrote: “I’m blown away by the response in the first 24hrs by all of you incredible people.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, and honestly don’t know what happens with this petition when it’s done!  But what I do know is there are a hell of a lot of live music lovers like me who care as much as I do about this iconic and culturally significant venue not being closed down and we are finding a voice!”

O’Brien, a restaurant finance manager originally from Greenwich, South East London, who now lives in Kent, told Rolling Stone UK: “I love Brixton Academy as I have seen so many great bands there with great people including my brother Sean who passed away a few years back. It was the last place I saw him. 

“Then a couple of years later, his favourite band, the Dropkick Murphys, dedicated a song to him there. Whenever I go there now it reminds me of him and makes me smile. So I guess I’m partly doing this for him too as he loved it there as well and we spent many amazing nights there together.”

He added that the recent tragedy has highlighted that “something is not right at the venue, but it should be fixed and not cancelled”. He continued: “All parties concerned in the decision making should come together and work out a safe way that allows Brixton Academy to re-open.”

The petition, which has set a new goal of 15,000 signees, has so far been shared by Mogwai guitarist Stuart Braithwaite and Bastille drummer Chris “Woody” Wood, the latter writing on Twitter: “Brixton Academy is my absolute favourite venue of all time, both to play and to watch gigs, and it would be devastating if it dies.”

Jim Bob of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine has also voiced his support for the petition, writing on Twitter: “Carter wouldn’t be Carter without Brixton Academy.” The musicians, real name James Robert Morrison, continued: “As a lifelong Lambeth council resident I’m not sure they’re the people who can do anything about saving it but definitely worth a shot. #SaveBrixtonAcademy – Sign the Petition.”

Speaking to Rolling Stone UK, Jim Bob – who played at the venue 15 times between 1990 to 2014 – said the proposed closure seems “sudden” and that it would be a “shame” to see the venue permanently shuttered. “It’s a great venue,” he added, sharing that performing at the South London venue was always like “coming home” for his band.

“Even the way people share that picture of the front of the building, it’s quite iconic isn’t it?” he said.

He added that there “aren’t that many great venues left in London that have been around for that long,” with his most memorable Brixton gigs as a punter including Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Iggy Pop, Radiohead and Beck.

“I think if you close it down for [those] reasons, you’d probably have to close down a lot of venues. I’m quite cynical about whether there’s other reasons for it.”

“It all seems quite convenient for the police and for the council. If it closes down, then that’s that kind of sorted. It seems like there’s more effort involved to work out: does it need to be closed down? Can it be changed?”

“I wonder if it’s got more to do with real estate, as opposed to music. There’s obviously things wrong with it, and I see why this is happening, but I think there’s a general feeling of music nowadays that you play in a pub and then the next thing you do is the O2 in Greenwich, so maybe Brixton Academy is not important enough to that story.”

Others have responded to news of the iconic venue’s potential closure by sharing their memories of gigs held there over the years, from Public Enemy and The Jam, to Blossoms and Phoebe Bridgers.

One music fan also posted a wall of ticket stubs from their dozens of gigs at Brixton Academy. “I very much hope this isn’t the end of Brixton Academy,” Twitter used Paul Hammond wrote. “I was looking through some old ticket stubs last night & just reminded myself how important the venue has been to me over the years.”

The subject of Brixton Academy’s possible closure is due to be discussed at a council sub-committee meeting next month.

The Metropolitan Police told PA news agency: “On Monday 16 January, the licence of the O2 Academy Brixton was suspended for three months.

“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.”

A spokesperson for the venue’s owner, Academy Music Group (AMG), added to The Guardian: “AMG has cooperated fully with the Metropolitan police and Lambeth council since the tragedy at Brixton occurred.

“We have had regular meetings and discussions with the Metropolitan police and Lambeth council at which we have presented detailed proposals that we believe will enable the venue to reopen safely.”

“AMG has been awaiting feedback on those proposals for several weeks and looks forward to hearing from the police as soon as possible in constructive terms.”