London's Nightlife Has Been Destroyed by Old Assholes
The superclub represented a city on the cutting edge of dance culture—and that place no longer exists.
A couple of years ago, I was walking around the South Bank of London in the early hours of the morning. It was at a time when my life was dipping in and out of being unbearable and unlivable because of a heavy affliction of depression. It was balmy and quiet, and I just went from bench to bench along the River Thames, sitting for a few minutes and getting up and walking on. As I approached a wall to look down at the tide, I heard two excited voices bounding behind me. It was two Irish guys, no older than 20, speed-walking past me but then stopping a few feet down to have a cigarette, finish their cans, and watch the water. They were talking about their night so far with such fervor and bright-eyed glee that it cheered my dilapidated, gloomy brain up. "I can't believe we're going to Fabric!" one of them said before throwing his can on the floor and running off.
It's a bit of a chintzy anecdote, but it always stayed with me. It returned to me often as an example of the sort of enthusiasm I wished I had for things. Now, though, it reminds me that Fabric was a destination nightclub. It was a place that people would come from far and wide to visit. Trains full of revelers wearing the same T-shirt and Kanye glasses coming to party alongside serious, muted techno guys, its labyrinthine interior passing you against hundreds of different types of people. It also became Valhalla for DJs. Your first booking at Fabric would have your heart racing with excitement, a sign that all your hard work had finally paid off, a step up to the next level of your career. With it gone, there are no longer any prestigious nightclubs in London. Save for Sankey's in Manchester and Sub Club in Glasgow, the destination club in Britain is becoming a thing of the past, and surely, it's only going to get worse.
On Tuesday night, before deliberation began, an Islington councillor was reportedly in tears as he spoke of the drug deaths inside the club and said that the club's license should be revoked. A police representative echoed this sentiment, saying that the club had become an "environment tolerant of drugs and crime." This idea has been roundly denied by both the club staff and revelers (including me). Fabric's door policy has always been one of the tightest in the city, sometimes almost off-puttingly so. The searches were mechanical and strict; there were metal detectors on the door and ID checks. The club was always aware of the pressures it faced from a constantly skeptical Metropolitan Police, and it acted accordingly.
The most galling aspect of this whole charade is the mental image of people from a different generation, with no vested interest in club culture, no desire to see it thrive, and certainly no wish to progress it, holding the sword of Damocles over these places. A fusty old building filled with people who have antiquated mindsets, whose scaremongering viewpoints and opinions you can scarcely believe still exist inside people's heads in the 21st century, let alone in the heads of those who have the power to change things. "Drug death" is a meaningless phrase out of context, and one that is used over and over, by tabloids and politicians, to silence the arguments of people trying to enact a positive change. It's another excuse for them to not look at drug laws and regulations properly, because the maxim of death—tragic, horrific death—is enough for them continue to blindly enact things that not only have a huge detriment to the safety of clubbers but also systematically destroy everything that makes British clubbing culture what it is.
Culture doesn't exist in a vacuum. If you'll allow me to be pretentious for a moment and refer to culture in its bacterial form, it needs places to thrive and grown. It cannot exist in the cold tundra; it needs its own pockets of warmth. Clubs are where scenes are born. People make the music, take it to the clubs, people come to listen, become fans, become friends, come away, and make their own things, play the music that's been created, and so on. Garage and house music are both named after the clubs they were born in. Dubstep would perhaps not exist in the way it did if it were not for Shoreditch's Plastic People and Brixton's Mass, two places that are now closed and will never incubate another scene again.
And to what end? It isn't merely about gentrification and property development any longer (though it is still massively about that), but also the rank disrespect and devaluation that the Establishment has for things that we hold dear. These people don't care that you had the best night of your life listening to Goldie play at 3 AM. To them, that experience is just an aside to the amorphous monster of "drugs." They are so distantly unaware of anything to do with clubbing culture that they made the completely facetious and moronic suggestion that the BPM of the music is what was causing people to take drugs, and should thus be lowered on a Friday night to avoid casualties. It harks back to another mindless suggestion made by the police to the now-closed Arches club, where they would turn the lights on and stop the music for five minutes in a "moment of calm."
"Over the past eight years, London has lost 50 percent of its nightclubs and 40 percent of its live music venues," said London mayor Sadiq Khan in a statement about Fabric's closure. One of the mayor's main campaign promises was to protect London nightlife, or at least what's left of it. "This decline must stop if London is to retain its status as a 24-hour city with a world-class nightlife."
I'm sorry to have to say it, but like Fabric's license, this status has been revoked. London stopped being that place a long time ago, and it will take a movement of the heavens and the earth to bring it back in the face of geriatric councillors, property developers, and a Met Police and government that would rather close down a business than look in the mirror and change the way they do their jobs.
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