Warning, rant incoming…
As you may have heard on the news and across social media this week, Fabric nightclub in London was closed down permanently following a review of their license. This review came about, according to the police, because of two drug related deaths in the club over the space of two months. However, whilst these deaths are incredibly sad, for anyone paying close attention to the details of this case it is plain to see that this is not the full story.
The council claim that Fabric nightclub was a “safe haven” for drugs users and pushers and the management were essentially turning a blind eye to drug use in their club. Now, for anyone not familiar with Fabric’s search policy, you’d have to forgive me for laughing out loud when I heard that statement! It has always taken at least 30mins to get into the club because they search every single person going in thoroughly, including a thorough pat down and search of bags and pockets. In the past I’ve had all my make-up opened up, every pocket of my purse searched, chewing gum inspected etc. Short of a strip search I’m not sure the security staff could do much more, and it’s a damn sight more than most other clubs do. Of course, people who want to smuggle drugs into a club will find ways of doing so, I’m not going to spell it out to you but I’m sure you can imagine! The point I’m making is that it certainly didn’t seem to us punters that the management of Fabric took a laissez-faire attitude to drug use on their premises.
And it seems, until recently, the police were also very happy with Fabric’s drug policies. Even sending other club staff to Fabric for drug training, championing them as a bastion of “good practise.” So why did the police attitude change so quickly?
Here is the statement from the founder of Fabric about their relationship with the police and the council Licencing Committee. It’s a long read, but worth reading to the end to get some perspective on the whole situation.
In a nutshell he says that Fabric cooperated with the police fully after these two tragic deaths and yet STILL their license was revoked. An article in the Independent claims that the REAL reason Fabric shut down was because a cash- strapped Islington Council orchestrated its closure to save money on policing the area, this is money going directly out of the local coughers yet business rates from the local nightlife economy unfathomably do not get paid to the local council, leaving them in a deficit. Others have also claimed that the land will be sold to investors and turned into luxury flats along with the likes of Madame Jojo’s in Soho, Cable in London Bridge, Turn mills in Clerkenwell, The End West End and Shoreditch’s Plastic People. Councils all over London appear to be making it increasingly difficult for nightclubs to operate in a bid to cash in on the developers pound.
In the 5 years I’ve lived in London I’ve seen the nightlife change beyond recognition, especially in Shoreditch and Brick Lane areas, which were full of clubs until recently. Sundays in Brick Lane used to be one long party with 93 Feet East, Vibe (RIP), Café 1001 and The Big Chill and Light bar (Shoreditch) running day club events. Now none of those events happen, most have had the conditions of their license changed so they can’t open past 1am, Light Bar is being converted into luxury flats as we speak and Vibe bar in the Old Truman Brewery remains empty. When most of these businesses opened 15-20 years ago Shoreditch was a slum, today it is the most fashionable area of London full of uber cool shops, galleries and trendy cafes. These clubs, along with the artist community, helped turn the area into a place where developers want to build flats that sell for £800k and up, and why people WANT to live there!
The same goes for the area Fabric is in, Farringdon is a post-industrial area revived in the 80s and 90s by bars and nightclubs opening there. Now it’s all about luxury loft living and nice restaurants. Closing the clubs down that made these areas so desirable is a real kick in the gut for those people that worked for two decades to create something new and different that people would travel miles for. Because Fabric wasn’t just for the London clubbers, it attracted people from all over the country and internationally too. My mates and I would travel from the north specifically for an event at Fabric, probably squeezing in a few London tourist spots too, but it was all about going to the club and then raving to your mates about “the best night of your life” when you got home, and now it’s gone (sigh)
But it’s not just the nostalgia that’s making me sad about Fabric closing down (FYI I was in there recently too) it’s the Fact that the London clubbing scene has been decimated, the nightlife in our capital city is all but dead, killed off by government cuts and greedy councils. I know some of you reading this will be like
“Boo-frickin-hoo, there are more important things to worry about than night clubs”
and I would agree, but this is just one example of how austerity has changed the cultural landscape of many of our cities. Only a few weeks after the night tube (finally) started running and we all rejoiced “no more inflated taxi fares, hurrah,” then this legend of a club shut down and it all seems a bit bloody pointless now. Soon all the late night venues will have been closed down everyone will be tucked up in bed by midnight and the 24hr tube battle will have been a waste of time. Once upon a time London was billed as the “city of cool” and touted as somewhere vibrant, fun and creative to attract tourism and money into the country. Yet our councils and licensing committees are doing everything in their power to make sure that London is bland, boring and dull.
London could so easily be like Berlin; attracting visitors from around the world and using it’s nightlife as a massive draw. However, I fear it will head more the way of New York City with draconian rules killing the creative scene and replacing them with clubs that want you to pay £500 for a bottle of vodka so you can sit in a booth and take selfies all night.
So what’s next for London nightlife? We’ve already seen the resurgence of the illegal rave scene in empty warehouses and industrial estates outside of the city centre, and the popularity of these events is likely to increase with more and more clubs having their licenses revoked. Ironically and tragically, this will probably make drug deaths all the more common, with them being totally unregulated, these events are rich pickings for unscrupulous drug dealers selling unknown substances to young people who just want to have fun. We need better drug education and harm reduction programs to reduce drug deaths, closing down nightclubs and forcing people into underground events is not the answer.
What are your thoughts on Fabric closing down or the London clubbing scene’s demise? Or even how your clubbing scene has been affect by changes in licensing, I’d love to know what you think.