Photo: Sian Bradley
Due to a lethal combo of sky-high rent, licensing laws and mince-heads who move above nightclubs and then complain about the noise, the UK venues where we have late-night fun have never been under more threat.In March, VICE conducted research in collaboration with the Music Venue Trust and found that at least 154 music venues had closed in the UK since 2016, with a further 390 venues at risk. (Here’s our map detailing the spread of the issue across the UK.)
'Fund Our Fun': A series celebrating the UK’s music and nightlife industries, and a rallying call to protect them.
Beyond the data, we thought it would be useful to reflect on what made the venues we lost so special. We posted some venues on our Instagram Stories and asked readers to send over the most cherished – or barely remembered – memories of nights out. Here are the results:
ANTWERP MANSION, MANCHESTER
What was it: Located in a dishevelled Victorian mansion just off Curry Mile, Antwerp Mansion was home to generations of students and young people looking to party in Manchester. Well-established in Fallowfield student lore.When did it close: 2018, due to noise complaints and supposed criminal activity.What people remember:– “The heating being on in the middle of a rave.”– “The toilets without a door on.”– “Pinging.”– “My brother sneezed a 2-CB pill out of his nose onto the bar.”– “I was off my nut, but I remember having to get a taxi back to Trafford because I had gotten too wankered and forgot my ID.”– “The sheer outrage on Facebook when the club finally decided to put doors on its toilet stalls.”
THE FLAPPER, BIRMINGHAM
What was it: One of Birmingham’s finest rough-and-ready alternative rock music venues, The Flapper had been trading for 50 years before closing in 2020 after the landlord decided not to renew their lease.
When did it close: 2020.What people remember:– “Got so drunk from Old Rosie's I got kicked out for sparking a spliff in front of the bouncer.”– “It was a fucking nightmare to get to because you had to know the exact correct way through the canal system. The amount of times I almost missed a band’s set because of this is enormous.”– “This band were headlining and their drummer broke a hole through the kick drum in the first song so they had to finish. They all made him jump in the canal as punishment.”– “The urinal was a large brick trough that covered the whole back wall and corners of the bathroom. I got a call while drunkenly taking a piss and dropped my phone which cracked to fuck on the brick work but then slid towards the drain in a complete river of everyone else's piss and I had to fish it out. Worst moment of my drinking life so far.”
What was it: House, techno and fun, all under one roof. During the early 90s, Lakota was regarded as one of the most well-known clubs outside London.When did it close: 2020, due to the owners walking away to focus their efforts on other venues owned in Bristol.What people remember:– “One time someone fell through the floor of the balcony. The event paused for 30 mins only.”
THE ALIBI, LONDON
What was it: A close-contact nightclub off Kingsland Road in Dalston, east London. Crucially, entry was free – perfect for a random mid-week session.When did it close: In 2018, a few months after closing, the owners told VICE when Hackney Council announced they would no longer be granting new late licenses, they realised "that people and businesses like us just weren't welcome in Hackney anymore".What people remember:– “Sweating.”– '“I don't remember anything because rum and Tings were a fiver!”– "They had a Jaegermeister dispenser."– "I did karaoke with Rudimental there. I didn't know at the time."– “Harry Styles celebrated his 19th birthday at the Alibi, so for years, every time I went, I thought he'd be there, hiding in a corner (he wasn't). Other than that, it had fit bartenders and strong drinks.”– “I have literally no coherent memories of The Alibi, only snapshots: standing in a circle (?) doing karaoke, falling over on the way the toilets, being sick in the toilets etc. It's the sort of place I ‘ended up’, never went deliberately, however I did have to go in there early-evening once and seeing it in the cold light of day was like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs. Eerie.”
– "All I remember is sweat and really low ceilings."
What was it: Skepta filmed his music video “Man” here, which only added to the club’s clout as the go-to-spot for everyone aged 25 and under in 2015.When did it close: 2018What people remember:– “Plastic cups, sweaty dance floor, graffitied toilets, cramped smoking area and pure vibesssssss.”– “The walls... they used to sweat.”– "Going there with straight hair and leaving with curly hair from the humidity."– “Weaves getting snatched.”– “Bouncer once came back to mine for an after party and helped me kick a guy out.”