Domino Club criticises knee-jerk blame for local police incidents

Brixton domino team
Brixton Domino team as they prepare for game with US rivals

Brixton Domino Club has criticised social media and online commentators who leapt to the conclusion that it was connected with the recent death of a 54-year-old-man near its Coldharbour Lane premises.

Police were called to the incident in Coldharbour Lane at about 6pm on Saturday 29 June. The club was closed at this time. Two men have been arrested on suspicion of murder and were in police custody.

Dominoes in Windrush Square
Dominos in Windrush Square

The club stresses that it is a resource rooted in the community and served by trustees like founder and chairman Lloyd Leon MBE, Lambeth’s first Black mayor. It was founded with support from Lambeth council after the Scarman Inquiry into the 1981 riots.

Club manager Samuel Ellis told the Bugle: “The Domino Club is the most iconic place in Brixton, with the possible exception of the police station and the town hall. We are a famous landmark but want to be known for the right reasons – a community resource and asset.”

Facade of Brixton Domino and Social Club on Coldharbour Lane
Brixton Domino and Social Club

Brixton Domino and Social Club’s constitution has as its primary objective “to welcome all members of the community to join for the purposes of social activities, recreation and dominos”.

It is a community hub that, for five years, has also housed the Brixton Soup Kitchen as well as Lawyers in the Soup Kitchen.

Ellis says: “Lots of people are blaming the club wrongly. We are only allowed to play music on Friday and Saturday nights. People won’t want to come out if they think it is a violent place.

“I’m still angry that residents around here, and even the police, blame us for incidents that have happened nearby that are nothing to do with the club.

“When there is an incident outside, we take them in and clean them up. It’s time for the police to acknowledge that.

“When the incident happened we were closed and it was nothing to do with the club.

“The fact the police were coming to the club and spent three days with us was because we had CCTV footage from our security cameras.

“Every incident along Coldharbour Lane is recorded. We work with the police and our cameras cover the inside and outside of the building. We are compelled to give the images to the police if they request.”

The club has regular contact with PC Lance Edmondson, the local police liaison officer, who confirmed in a text that the incident “was nothing to do with the club”.

Ellis said: “There’s frustration that somehow it’s the club’s fault if people are loitering or trespassing when the club is closed and the gates locked.” The trustees acknowledge that cuts in police numbers means there are no police to arrest them or stop anti-social behaviour.

Lloyd Leon said that from the club’s inception, made possible thanks to an intervention by Lord Scarman, the club had worked closely with the police and there was never a problem

“I believe in law and order one hundred and ten percent. I support the police one hundred and ten percent.”

Ellis added: “We have had problems with dealers outside, but we do not allow them in.”

Leon said he has sympathy with London police, who have seen their numbers cut by 24,000: “The police are too thinly spread to be visible and prevent crime. They don’t have the staff.”

The club recently met council officers and Ubele management consultants who are working on plans for the club with both it and the council to discuss how to support the management structure.

The club has been working with the council since December 2017 when council officers and police applied to the council’s licensing sub-committee to impose restrictions on its licence

This application included several allegations of violent and criminal activity at the club which were refuted by Dr Mahamed Hashi, chair of the club committee at the time and now a Stockwell ward Lambeth councillor. He told the committee that the club was more than happy to comply with the decisions of the committee.