Is it time for London to move on? If so, what is the best path to move forward? In the wake of the iconic club’s closure, how best can London’s nightlife begin moving forward.
In the past few months the London music community has gone through the first four stages of grief over the closing of Fabric. At this stage the fact that the decision was reactionary as well as completely counter to progress is well documented, with even London’s mayor speaking out about the decision. However, it now seems that the city may have become stuck in the fourth stage; depression, not able or willing to move towards acceptance. In Fabric’s most recent transparency report it’s clear that the company has amassed a substantial wedge of donations (around a quarter of a million euros after expenses) with a view to overturning the ruling. But are hopes of overturning the ruling really realistic? Or could all this energy be put to better use somewhere else?
Symptomatic of a greater ill
Fabric’s closure is symptomatic of a greater issue regarding London’s nightlife. As Mayor Khan says in the above interview:
“over the last eight years [London has] lost 40 – 50% of live music venues. We can’t carry on this way.”
Whilst the closure of Fabric is a tragedy in itself, what it signifies for London and indeed the UK as a whole is in fact way more worrying. As Alan Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association, said just prior to the closure; “If the operational measures Fabric have in place aren’t enough to satisfy a licence committee, then no club stands a chance.” Essentially London’s local governments, feeling the pressure from big business moving in to the city, are systematically stifling nightlife as a whole. This is not only bad for clubbers but also only serves to push things underground creating an increasingly polarised community.
One of many
With venues across the city closing at an alarming rate and the licence committee’s operational measures increasingly overzealous, it’s only a matter of time before more closures happen. The closure of Dance Tunnel in East London earlier in the year, also due to licensing issues, saw comparatively little mourning or outrage but clearly this is part of the same problem. This venue is of course not as iconic and lacks the immense history that Fabric does but it could be argued that it was in fact more instrumental in nurturing up and coming DJs in London’s contemporary scene. Plastic People, which closed last year, although not directly tied to licensing issues or local authorities, it was clear it’s days were numbered amongst the frenzied gentrification happening in Shoreditch and across East London.
The bigger picture
Of course this doesn’t mean we should give up on Fabric’s personal plight but there is a very real danger that whilst everyone is looking in one direction, the same issue will surface somewhere else and let’s face it, there are precious few clubs in the UK’s capital remaining. The ruling on Fabric’s closure was obviously intended to send a message and subsequently the campaign to save it has become a symbol of defiance. However, even if the campaign succeeds in getting Fabric’s doors open once again (which is looking less and less likely), the issues at the root of the problem will still remain. Now, more than ever, the people of London need to come together and create a discourse where urban development and the cities nightlife, both of which are inevitable parts of a cities DNA, can coexist peacefully and treat each other with respect.
The path forward
London has now elected it’s first Night Czar inspired by Amsterdam’s Nachtburgermeester. This is certainly a step in the right direction for the city and it seems that both Lame and Khan are very keen to turn things around. The repercussions of a dying nightlife extend way beyond the realm of art and culture, rippling across the social and economic landscape. Still, improving things will be by no means easy. As we outlined recently, the policies in place with the local authorities make it extremely difficult for clubs to stay open, not to mention turn a profit, in the capital. A host of new policies will need to be put in place to ensure that the remaining venues are given more support and new ones are nurtured rather than stamped out. The addition of the 24 hour tube is also a big help but as the BBC reported, it only works if there are worthwhile places to go.
The closure of Fabric is undoubtedly unfair and deeply sadening. Remembering unforgettable and often historic sessions gone by and now watching footage of the empty space left behind stirs feelings of anger and regret. The real issue however, is the implications for the scene as a whole.
As Goldie put it in a recent interview for Channel 4 News, the city is “killing counter culture and indeed culture itself”. This is no overstatement. Moving forward, Fabric’s story should be taken as a lesson and used to make sure that such closures don’t continue to plague the city’s nightlife. The fight to save Fabric is an important one but in many ways it is becoming a point of pride and taking the focus away from the venues that are still open and the opportunities for new spaces to be nurtured in it’s wake.