I only went to Fabric once, way back in 1999, on the second night it was open in fact. I had a great night, as far as I can recall 17 years on, but never ended up going back again. London was a long way from Manchester for a night out, and I didn’t have any friends living in the capital during my clubbing prime, so the opportunity never really arose. By all accounts though, it was one of the best, if not the best, club in London. Certainly, I was impressed when reading the line-ups advertised by Fabric, in the back of Mixmag or Jockey Slut, and they put out a fantastic series of mix CDs, some of my favourites of all time, mixed by everyone from John Peel to Four Tet to Diplo.
But all this largely beside the point, even if I had never been to Fabric, or hated the music that they played, the decision to close it would still be monumentally stupid and short-sighted. Of course the death of 2 people in Fabric after taking ecstasy is a tragedy, but to think the closure of one nightclub is going to stop people taking drugs is ridiculous. If you close one nightclub, people will go to another one. If you close all the nightclubs people will take drugs in bars, or at house parties, or illegal raves or any of the other hundreds of places that people take drugs. More knowledgable people than me have pointed out that the closure of Fabric will actually lead to more drug users coming to harm, as they move to less regulated environments.
The authorities who revoked Fabric’s license claimed that it didn’t do enough to prevent drug use, including insufficient searches. Not only is that disputed by most people who ever attended the venue, the fact remains that people can hide drugs in places that nightclub bouncers are not allowed to search, so it’s impossible for any venue to entirely prevent drugs getting in. And once they’re inside, unless you’re watching every single clubber at every single moment, you’re not going to stop them being taken. If Fabric can be closed on this basis, so can any nightclub, and we can kiss goodbye to London’s clubbing scene. London should be developing and promoting its’ nightlife, as another way of attracting visitors and creating an image of a vibrant, modern city. Berlin promotes its’ techno clubs even on its’ touristy souvenirs (see my place mat below), but London seems to have chosen a different direction.
Many have put the case for why the decision to close Fabric was such a bad one, none more eloquently than co-founder Cameron Leslie, in his full speech to Islington Council, but why does it mean so much to me? I only just wrote about how clubbing is not really part of my life anymore, and most likely I would never have attended Fabric again, even if it had remained open. Given everything else that has happened in the UK this year, it might not seem a big deal, but it’s just another small step on our road to becoming a bland, joyless, unwelcoming land. Almost every club I enjoyed when I was younger has been turned into a Tesco Express or luxury flats. It may seem a weird thing to wish for as a parent, but I want my daughter to have the opportunity to go clubbing when she grows up, should she wish to. I want her life to be full of joy and I had a lot of good times in those places. I don’t want her to grow up in a country where they barely exist.
This also seems like an attack on electronic music itself. I’m old enough to remember, if not actually have experienced, the Criminal Justice Bill of 1994 which was ostensibly focused on closing illegal raves, but with its’ specific attacks on music with repetitive beats, was really an attempt to criminalise and destroy dance music culture altogether. Now, again under a Conservative government, those attitudes seem to be returning (witness the ridiculous attempts by the Fabric review board to claim that music with a higher BPM led to an increase in drug use). Well, they may have closed down the illegal raves and driven dance music into nightclubs in the 1990s, and they may well be trying to drive it out of the nightclubs in the 2010s, but it will always find somewhere else to go. For a long, long way back in human history people have congregated, taken mind altering substances, and danced. No matter what happens they will find a place to continue to do so. I’m just sad to know that Fabric will no longer be one of those places.