Why Fabric’s next move should be supported by the entire music industry23 September 2016 - Editorial
Two weeks ago, on September 7, London’s clubbing mecca Fabric was forced to close after having its licence revoked by Islington council. The reasons given were around its safety with regards to two recent drug-related deaths at the venue. What followed after the licence revocation was an outpouring of unity in defence of the institution, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in the music landscape since 6 Music came under threat. Stats came to light quoting 40% of London venues having closed down over the past 10 years, however, far from the issue being capital-centric, the problem was echoed across the UK and the repercussions felt nationwide. Broadsheets, blogs and social media lit up to defend the country’s dwindling cultural hubs as Fabric’s closure became the beacon for action against a crumbling night time economy.
Although the headlines may have died down over the past fortnight the fight is still very much on, with a mission statement and crowdfunding page coming from the club itself, a Boilerroom debate from the heart of the venue and BBC Radio 1 dedicating an hour-long special Newsbeat report to the cause.
The interesting part of Fabric’s fight is that it’s already evolved to be more than a campaign to reopen the club. In a transparency statement from its Managing Director Gary Kilbey he details what the next 6-9 months will be spent working on, featuring a split focus on the future of the venue and “short amendments to guidance under the Licensing Act 2003.” Speaking at Boilerroom this week, co-founder Cameron Leslie stated: “If it was possible to close us down in the way they did, we feel it’s possible to close any venue. What we want is to change the guidance law and to stop that kind of situation happening to us and any other venue in the UK.”
The team at Fabric have identified eight key changes to the law that they feel will help prevent other venues falling in the way their club has (for now). Tellingly, one of the key points brought up for adjustment echoes the conversations being had around this topic.
They state: “The Police have the power to apply for interim steps without giving any notice to the venue. Worse still, they can do it without any previous dialogue with the premises. But dialogue is essential so that venues are given to the opportunity to improve. [We believe] There should be partnership between venues and the police, but this is often lacking. We want to change the guidance so that there is a documented action plan agreed with the police and the venue. It is only where the venue does not comply with the action plan that the police should bring summary reviews, except in the most exceptional cases.”
It’s the dialogue and relationship with local and national powers that has been a reoccurring theme over the past month. Dan Beaumont, owner of London venue Dance Tunnel, eloquently concurred: “It’s all about partnerships – everyone mentions it, it’s about working together; town planners, the mayor’s office, the council and the venues together. There’s no need for people to be in court against one another, we need effective partnerships.” Leslie has commented several times since Fabric’s closure about his once strong relationship with the local police force, which he believes broke down after the club won a battle not to install ID scanners and have drug dogs outside the venue.
Speaking at Tuesday’s Boilerroom roundtable, Amsterdam Night Mayor Mirik Milan detailed how it took several years to explain the value of nightlife to city councillors and government before cultural spots began to be taken seriously. But, with interviews for London’s first Night Tsar taking place this week, London has arguably already begun to make the connection. If the chosen ‘Tsar’ manages his position and fosters relationships in a meaningful and effective way there’s a real chance London can lead the way for the UK and potentially follow in the footsteps of the likes of Berlin - where renown club Berghain has seen its cultural importance secured. The Night Time Industries Association and its chairman Allan Miller have been, and continue to be, a strong, sensible and powerful voice for the night time economy and we can only hope another mouthpiece will reinforce their great work.
It’s impossible to ignore the issue around drugs when examining the story of Fabric and the current situation. However, with even a discussion with government around how better to manage those who will take drugs seemingly a very long way off the overriding priority for those invested in this space must be to prevent further closures. Sectors of the industry who may have no dealings with Fabric or the dance music world are pivotal to the conversation and forming a united front should be at the forefront of agendas. The breeding ground provided by club spaces have time and time again proven themselves invaluable to the wider ecosystem - not least Fabric’s own support of the grime scene which recently celebrated Skepta’s Mercury win.
If you’re in any doubt how important this fight is, let us close with a quote from Dan Beaumont: “Look at Adele. The biggest cultural export we have now. The label she’s on is XL – they started in drum n bass, they released the first Prodigy album. That is a label that was formed in an underground dance culture. The people who run that label have then been informed to believe in music and sometimes music that not everyone gets but they’re passionate about. If you build a culture based on that you end up on this amazing 25-year journey that leads to Adele. Club culture goes on to inform culture at large. I’m pretty sure that a lot of Adele fans have never heard the first Prodigy release but the fact is it’s all part of a linage that is supported by nightclubs. We might not see the effects of this in 5-10 years time but in 20 years time there’s just going to a load of big shiny buildings with no-one who can afford to live in them and no culture.”