In the early hours of Wednesday 7th September, the committee in charge of Fabric’s future returned their verdict that the club’s licence should be revoked – ‘failing to stop clubbers taking and buying illicit substances on its premises’. The hearing stated that security failed to adequately search clubbers upon entrance… At times, going through Fabric security felt like going through an airport. Short of strip-searching every person in such a time consuming way as to make the club unworkable, it seems baffling that stronger searches could have been implemented. It is totally unrealistic to expect clubs to be able to stop drugs entering the premises whilst also remaining commercially viable.
The real crux of this issue is how to prevent harm arising from drugs, to stop young people dying from drugs. There is a very obvious way to do this. The first is education so that young people are then able to take responsibility to look after themselves. The other is ensuring that the drugs that do find their way onto dancefloors do not contain other chemicals than what they are advertised. Amsterdam has implemented drug-testing facilities in the city and surely this is the most realistic way of tackling drug harm. The authorities simply cannot go on with this over-idealised dream that they can prevent all drugs from entering nightclubs. They cannot even stop drugs getting into prisons.
The idea that the authorities think that the best way to tackle drug related harm and crime is by going after the last stage of the drug trade is absolutely laughable. This witch-hunt is rooted in the demonisation of the hedonistic aspects of club culture and screams of a situation where the decision makers have little or no understanding of the environment in which they are taking decisions. The increasing numbers of deaths of young people from drugs is a tragedy. However, more of a tragedy is the fact that there seems to currently be no appreciation from those in power that the actions taken in response to these tragedies has not worked. Closing clubs does not reduce drug use or harm.
It is a testament to just how out of touch the decision makers are that it fails to recognise that harm prevention must be the end goal and this must be achieved through education and increased drug safety. This seems so obvious that it almost suggest that there has been a conscious decision to use the Met Police and archaic drug legislation to shut down clubs for another reason. Some people argue that this ulterior motive is the fact that many of the London venues, including Fabric, that have recently closed stand upon premium real estate. Artwork noted on Twitter recently that planning permission has recently been requested for the Smithfields area, and the Independent reported that so-called ‘Operation Lenor’ was a premeditated, concerted effort by the council to use drug related crime as a façade to ensure the closure of Fabric and ensure that luxury flats, akin to what happened to the Hacienda in Manchester, documented in the 2015 BBC Newsbeat Documentary, ‘Where Have All The Clubs Gone.’
In the previous few weeks, the club community has rallied around Fabric, with a petition to save the club gaining over 150,000 signatures. Sadiq Khan, who is in the process of appointing a Night Czar, and Islington MP Emily Thornberry both pleaded with the Council, the Police and Fabric to come to some sort of agreement in order to allow the club to stay open whilst prioritising the safety of those in attendance. However it was all to no avail. It is no real surprise that the council gave little weight to 150,000 people each sharing their memories of a club that has completely changed the landscape of the electronic music scene. They were always going to give more weight to ‘undercover police operations’ recounting horror stories of drugged up youths ‘sweating [with] glazed red eyes and staring into space’.
If 150,000 signatures, the Mayor of London and the local MP for the area cannot save one of the biggest and most culturally significant venues in the city, then what hope is there for other threatened London nightclubs? Personally, this is equally as troubling as Fabric itself closing. In recent years we have seen the closure of a plethora of London venues, from Cable, to the legendary Plastic People and most recently everyone’s favourite basement, Dance Tunnel. Sadiq Khan promised to protect London’s nightlife culture when he became Mayor, but he has got off to the worst possible start. His aim to have a 24-hour city is a mere pipe dream at the moment, for you can have as comprehensive a night transport network as you like but if there is nowhere to go then it is completely, 100% futile. It looks as though Corsica Studios, with a luxury property development already well on the way, will soon be facing a long struggle to stay alive and the authorities will be licking their lips at the ease of this next task having taken down the behemoth that is Fabric. Also in the news this week, the Canavan Pool Club in Peckham, where Bradley Zero’s Rhythm Section bi-monthly nights are held, has had its future thrown into jeopardy after noise complaints from local residents.
Overall, this is an incredibly sad week for anyone who associates themselves with the city of London. The city’s cultural heritage is being decimated by ignorant councils and police with the carcass being gorged upon eagerly by the property developing vultures. Co-founder Keith Reilly, resident Craig Richards and fabric family Howie B joined Gilles Peterson and Thristian this week on Brownswood’s new station Worldwide FM to reflect on the police/council’s decision, as they reminisce about the club’s colourful past and lay out plans for the future. Listen below for some exclusive insights into what happened during that town hall meeting when the decision was passed and also some official plans moving forward. Make sure to keep an eye out on the official ‘Fabric London’ social media in the coming week for ‘the next step’ as the guys set to launch a campaign to back the appeal to stay open.
Words by @Ollie_Subhedar