The closing of Fabric is tragic. Two young people lost their lives there earlier this summer and now 250 staff face redundancy after its licence was revoked. The doors of a venue that has become a site of major cultural significance over its 17-year history are shut. This is all very clear – so what does it mean for UK clubbing?
Drugs education and testing need to become the norm. Ecstasy is stronger than ever before, meaning that young, inexperienced clubbers are in potential danger of overdosing. They need to be educated about the risks of recreational drug use and about what exactly they are ingesting. This needs to start at school, college or within their local community. It’s also why Mixmag has started the Don’t Be Daft, Start With A Half campaign, informing users that it’s safer to take small doses. Clubs like Fabric should not take the blame for recreational drug use that’s going to happen whether the police like it or not. Instead, on-site drug testing and harm-prevention initiatives should be encouraged, such as The Loop, which operates atSecret Garden Party and The Warehouse Project. An honest conversation about drug use between venues, clubbers and local government and police should be encouraged. As The Loop demonstrates, there’s now an example of this in the UK (something which the Metropolitan police failed to note of during their dealings with Fabric).
No security measures on the door will completely cease drugs being smuggled into clubs; as Mixmag Editor Duncan Dick remarked in the Guardian earlier this week “[The government] can’t even keep drugs out of a prison,” a place of significantly tighter security. Drug education and a more progressive approach to drug taking, such as the implementation of warnings sent out when dangerous drugs are in circulation à la Amsterdam’s system, is the way forward and a progressive way of combatting drug deaths. Fabric’s closure is indicative of a subculture being scapegoated and blamed for the failings of institutions of power.
It’s also imperative that night clubs, and wider electronic music culture, are viewed with the cultural importance that they deserve. Clubs are incubators for new artists, genres and scenes that impact and influence culture on a worldwide scale. The sparks for this creativity begins in DJ booths and on dance floors. A venue like Fabric is more deserving of a Blue Plaque than a banning order.
In its 17 years of operation, the club has welcomed over six million dancers through its doors and hosted sets from over 5,000 artists. The impact it has had in inspiring a new generation of music makers and giving a platform for fledgling artists to excel to heights is incalculable. Beyond the realms of the physical location, the 178 Fabric and FABRICLIVE mix CDs it has released through its in-house Fabric Records labels have equally inspired millions of people worldwide. Similarly, its Houndstooth artist-led offshoot has been responsible for promoting new artists to become renowned figures, handing the likes of Call Super and Second Storey their debut releases. The loss of Fabric and all its linked offshoots will be felt far and wide, and no consideration of its cultural importance has been accounted for.
Key to lobbying for drugs education and the legitimacy of Night Time culture and economy – which is worth £66bn to the UK – are groups like the Night Time Industries Association, which campaigns on behalf of the sector and is responsible for the movement as well as a potential Fund For Fabric. So too will be Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Night Czar, who when chosen, will be a much-needed mediator between clubs, the police and government. Such a figure would have been beneficial during the discussion around Fabric’s licence and is inspired by the effectiveness of Amsterdam’s Night Mayor. A Czar could also be installed in other UK cities, meaning clubbing scenes across the country are made safe and secure.
And that’s the whole point. These scenes and the clubs that populate them are the gateway into electronic music and the culture that we live, breath and contribute to every day. They should be cherished, not prosecuted. The closure of Fabric is a watershed moment: in no way should something like this be allowed to happen again.