So, London superclub Fabric has been closed by the local government in the wake of two drug deaths. An appeal has been launched. Yesterday (September 20), the club opened its doors for the first time since its closure, as there was to be an afternoon panel discussion about the future of UK nightlife.
Organised by online music broadcaster Boiler Room, the panel was headed up by Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry; Amsterdam’s Night Mayor Mirik Milan; the DJs Goldie and Artwork, club promoters Alex Benson (founder of Bloc) and Dan Beaumont (Dalston Superstore); and Fabric co-founder Cameron Leslie. Here’s what we learned at the event.
Everyone’s worried about what Fabric’s precedent could mean for smaller clubs
Fabric co-founder Cameron Leslie discussed the enormous expense incurred by the club’s closure and the cost of the appeal process, which has been disastrous even for a lucrative club like Fabric. No small business could withstand the impact of that, he explained, saying: “We feel very strongly about the manner in which the revocation was landed upon us… It’s going to be possible to do that to any venue.”
And for clubs that don’t even exist yet
Club promoter Dan Beaumont asked: “As things stand, who’s gonna invest in the next big club?” With the current climate so hostile towards nightlife, he explained, it seems unlikely that anyone would stump up cash to get a new venue off the ground. Meanwhile, Cameron Leslie admitted that he was pessimistic about the future of nightlife in the UK and said: “Would I go out and start a new nightlife business? Firmly, no. In that respect, I’ve lost faith.” He added: “You can’t build a £12 million club on passion. I don’t know if those big clubs have a place now in London.”
Goldie reckons politicians just don’t “get” nightlife
He described the closure of Fabric as a “witch hunt” and said: “The people in offices don’t get it. They’re like – no emotion.” The DJ added: “The government is in denial [about young people’s desire to get loaded]… It’s so neanderthal…. They are strangling themselves and their own culture. It’s misguided for the government to be so far in denial. Young people wanna go out and they’re going to go out. You can’t stop them.” He explained that clubs introduced young people to culture and kept them out of trouble – as he himself first discovered creativity and music through clubbing. In “five or six years”, he reckons, we’ll see the negative fall-out from denying young people their cultural spaces.
Dan Beaumont added: “The sharp end of the decision is still with three local councilors. This cultural heritage is in the hands of people who might not understand it.”
Asked if politicians just don’t want clubs in London, MP Emily Thornberry said: “It’s risky and [local governments] will always prefer to play safe… [But] people must be allowed to congregate together. They must be allowed to celebrate; they must be able to demonstrate. The answer is not to lock everyone in their bedrooms.”
Amsterdam’s Night Mayor says we need a cultural shift
Stressing the “social, cultural and economic value” of nightlife, Mirik Milan concluded that Fabric would never have closed in Amsterdam because authorities would have heeded the 150,000 people who signed a petition to keep the club open. He also argued that responsibility for drugs should be shifted from clubs and onto individuals who should be encouraged to think about what they take into clubs: “Be pragmatic and open-minded… and focus on harm reduction.”
Clubs are important economically as well as culturally
There was a lot of talk about the cultural significance of clubs, and how they help to incubate music and push culture forward. Yet this type of language is not always successful in discussions with local governments. So Dan Beaumont hit upon an economic argument that could make the case for the importance of cultural spaces. He explained that in the 1990s XL Recordings was a small, underground label that fostered dance music that grew in clubs like Fabric. Years later, XL launched Adele’s career, helping to create our era’s biggest British musical success story.
Cameron Leslie added that Fabric hosted performances from Skepta and other UK grime artists, contributing to the “incubation” of the scene and the Tottenham MC’s talent. Skepta just won the Mercury Prize, so what does that tell us?