It seems almost unreal to discuss Fabric in the past tense – the London club has stood at the forefront of youth culture for 17 years, with its impeccable booking policy, wonderful mix CDs, and associated labels such as Houndstooth doing so much to preserve the UK’s place at the front line of innovation within electronic music.
Yet, at around 1am last night the club’s future was dashed at a stroke. Fabric’s license was revoked at a hearing with Islington Council’s licensing committee, following weeks of speculation over its future. Our first concerns must be with the 250 people employed by the club, with many of those jobs simply not existing elsewhere. Fabric was such a unique entity – both in size and approach – that it’s success is difficult to mirror in this country; to view parallels, we simply must look abroad.
Which leads to a broader concern, one that has been made many times over on social media by figures both large and small. The decision – and the manner in which it has come about – seems to solidify the belief amongst young people that London simply does not belong to them. It belongs to bankers and real estate agents, and not clubbers, promoters and DJs; that the re-sale value of a Smithfields property is worth more than securing the future of one of the finest clubs on the planet.
Clash has always attempted to place a positive spin on these arguments, to look to those pushing ahead, to seek a small chink of light in an otherwise bleak situation. Last year we ran a feature on London’s finest small clubs, showcasing the promoters pushing back against the tide. Sadly, we can’t run a similar feature this morning: the loss of Fabric is simply too grievous, and the bulk of the small clubs we’ve featured have already shut down.
This summer feels like one long body blow to youth culture in the city. From the fire at Studio 338 to the closures at Dance Tunnel and Shapes it often feels like there are simply less and less places to go, less and less places to live outside the norm. For many young people, freedom can only be achieved through the construction of spaces for it to exist, spaces where the reach of mind-numbing, soul-sapping jobs exceeds their grasp. Remove these spaces, and you condemn people to grey lives, marked by rigid control.
Sadiq Khan officially became London Mayor on May 9th, yet already he’s dealing with what can only be termed a crisis within the city’s night time economy. Representatives from the Night Time Industries Association were on hand to testify on Fabric’s behalf at the hearing last night, clearly worried about the impact its closure would have on the city. However it’s more than this – it’s about the way councils interact with youth culture, and attitudes towards drug use in society.
Closing Fabric will not win any mis-guided war on drugs, in fact it is far more likely to send curious youngsters into extremely unsafe, unguarded positions. The suggestions Fabric made towards its own future were sound, and it’s revealing that the Metropolitan Police simply had not investigated how safe drug testing was implemented at events such as Manchester’s Warehouse Project. The idea that drug policy in the UK should be implemented at a fragmented, local level, instead of a secure, national one, is simply jaw dropping.
The fall out from this decision will linger for months. Simply put: this is the most regressive, conservative assault on dance music in this country since the Criminal Justice Act in 1994. Indeed, there’s an odd parallel between the Criminal Justice Act’s bizarre definition of ‘repetitive beats’ and the Islington panel’s request for lower BPMs – as if dipping below 130BPM would have any impact on the safety of clubbers.
For now, we can only end by reiterating our support for the 250 people directly affected by the closure of Fabric. Here, we gather a few words from well-known figures within dance music.
— Ghost Culture (@ghostculture) September 7, 2016
Beyond gutted for the whole team who always gave us total passion, dedication and an incredible, inspiring environment @fabriclondon
— Paul Woolford (@PaulWoolford) September 7, 2016
Thoughts go out to all the family at @fabriclondon this morning..Closure of Fabric adds to 2016 being one of the worst years I can remember
— Oliver Jones (@I_Skream) September 7, 2016
Pure sadness about Fabric. London is being ruined right now.
— Four Tet (@FourTet) September 7, 2016
I feel massively for the staff at Fabric because that place was run like a big family. My heart goes out to all of you amazing people I met
— Plastician (@djplastician) September 7, 2016