Let’s face it, 2016 has been a bit of a write-off, with one piece of devastating news after another. This trend of disappointment showed no signs of stopping in the second half of the year when it was announced in September that the world-famous London club, Fabric, had its license revoked, following two drug-related deaths.
After already planning to write this very angst-y article about the closure of Fabric, and how the Islington Borough Council should be ashamed of themselves, the news broke across social media that Fabric had been saved, and would eventually re-open, albeit under new conditions.
Here is a list of the new measures that the club will have to comply with in order to re-open:
- A new ID scanning system to be used for the club’s patrons upon entry
- Even more enhanced searching procedures and controls
- Life-time bans for those found in possession of drugs
- Life-time bans for those caught trying to buy drugs inside
- Enhanced monitoring and external auditing for compliance against procedures
- Physical changes to the clubs, including more lighting and increased CCTV
- They have to hire a new security company
And perhaps most bizarrely of all;
- Persons under the age of 19 will not be permitted on the premises between 8pm on a Friday and 8am on a Monday, and on any other day that the club promote a core club night.
While some of the new conditions don’t immediately sound like they will cause too much hassle, there are others that will have a much bigger impact. Introducing a new ID scanning isn’t much of a big deal, considering it has become quite common practice for these machines to be used by clubs up and down the country. One of the measures that I gave the biggest eye-roll to was the enhanced security procedures. I don’t know if you have ever been to Fabric, and have therefore experienced the pretty thorough security procedures, but if you have then you would probably, like me, question how they could be ‘enhanced further;’ without the use of those swanky new machines they now use at the airport. You know, the ones where you have to keep your hands raised about your head so it looks like you’ve been paused while doing the YMCA. The security on the doors don’t tend to just give you a quick frisk over your arms and pockets, if you are a girl then the female security guard will literally swipe their hands inside your bra, before letting you in. This is already enough of a violation, so I don’t know what measures they could take next to ‘enhance’ their checks further.
Although giving life-time bans to those found in possession of drugs is possibly a bit excessive, I can understand why they have had to agree to comply with this policy.
Having to use a new security company is a bit of a slap in the face to all of the security guards who worked hard, long nights in the club, doing their job well. We can only hope that this won’t affect them too badly in the long term.
The last measure was perhaps the oddest of them all; changing the minimum entry age from 18 to 19, as if there is a sudden jump in maturity between 18 and 19 year olds. Besides, this isn’t actually a matter of maturity as people of all ages use drugs recreationally. In the grand scheme of things, no matter how irritating it is, waiting one extra year isn’t too long of a wait. But I guess I can say that now that I’m now 19.
The council initially closed the club because of issues surrounding the purchasing, selling, and use of drugs on the premises. Tragically, two 18 year old boys died at the club in the summer of 2016 after taking MDMA. The council then used the horrible death of these two young men to push forward their agenda for closing the club. Council documents were later released that revealed that the council had been planning the closure of Fabric for a long time. An undercover police operation targeted the club in July 2016 but they found no hard evidence of drug use in the club. The original report also revealed that the undercover police described the police as having a “friendly and non-threatening” atmosphere. Surprisingly, this info didn’t make it into the council’s statement. It’s clear that this country and its government need to start seriously engaging in a sensible and practical drug law debate, but I don’t think that this was the biggest battle Fabric had to face.
Islington council was receiving huge cuts from the government; it was standing to lose £17 million this year alone. Although Fabric brings in a lot of money to the local community through the nearby bars and take away food shops that its patrons use, the local businesses that pay tax, and the local people who they employ, the money never made its way back to the local police and council who were also facing cut backs due to the government’s austerity measures. As public and community services are being taken away, they are being replaced by corporate investments, posh new boutique hotels, and blocks of apartments being bought by foreign investors. A similar thing happened to Manchester’s beloved Hacienda club in 2002, which was demolished and in its place now stands 130 apartments. Unfortunately Hacienda wasn’t saved, but it serves as a bleak reminder of the reality of what Fabric was to become.
Thankfully, after the #savefabric and #saveourculture campaign that spread like wildfire over social media, reaching all corners of the globe, the club raised over £333,000 and received over 160,000 signatures on its petition to save it the club. On the 21st November, Fabric released a statement confirming the good news that they had won their license back, thanking everyone for saving Fabric. They have also since said that the money they raised will now be going to other similar causes affecting the industry.
While we can all rejoice that Fabric is re-opening, and a little bit of our faith in 2016 has been restored, we must not forget that the future of the club is still uncertain as they now have a 155 page document of new licensing conditions to abide by. However, this is a step in the right direction, positive changes are now happening and London now has a Night Time Industries Association and a night Czar appointed by Mayor Sadik Khan.
There is definitely now an anxiety that the police/council will pounce on the first opportunity they get to close Fabric again; and there is no doubt that the club will now be under even closer surveillance, with people just waiting for them to fuck up. Though Fabric might be saved for now, the battle to save London’s nightlife is far from over, but hopefully this would have brought some much-needed mainstream attention to the issue.
Fabric’s opening weekend begins on the 6th January, kicking off the new year in a big way. Let’s just hope that 2017 starts as it means to go on.
See you on the dancefloor…