Yesterday the devastating news broke that Fabric, London’s most iconic and well-loved nightclub, has closed its doors permanently.
The announcement came following a painstaking 6-hour-long enquiry by Islington council, who ultimately decided to revoke the club’s licence following two recent drug-related deaths on the premises.
The decision has come as a huge blow to the electronic music community, with internationally famous DJs from an array of genres taking to social media to air their grief and frustration. Hugely respected names such as Alan Fitzpatrick and Plastician paid moving tributes to the club and its incredible legacy yesterday, talking of their own experiences at the venue and the hugely positive impact it has had on electronic music as a whole. Chase and Status used Twitter to call the decision an “absolute disgrace”, while Playaz’s DJ Hype said he was “lost for words”. Drum and Bass legend Goldie further summarised the feelings of the dance music community when he spoke to Channel 4 News – “I take my hat off to Fabric, it was a religion, an institute for all of us… it’s a disgrace…from a country-wide point of view, [the decision] could have a lot of repercussions…god help the kids of tomorrow”. He reportedly even threatened to melt down his MBE to protest the club’s closure.
The closure is particularly hard-hitting in the context of the huge wave of nightclub closures that the UK, and more specifically London, has suffered over recent years. An array of popular London venues – names like Dance Tunnel, Cable and Plastic People – have been forced to permanently shut their doors in recent history, but many had hoped that Fabric, the most iconic of all London clubs, would be spared this fate.
Although the tragic deaths of two young males was initially held up as the reason for the club’s licence suspension, it has since been revealed that there were other motives behind Islington Council’s decision to shut the venue. In an official statement, Islington council listed 11 bullet points highlighting its reasons for forcing the club to close, with 8 out of the 11 not referring to the deaths at all, but to the findings of an undercover police operation which took place within the club in July, The Independent reported yesterday. This operation found ‘no hard evidence of drug taking within the venue, relying instead on vague observations’. These observations – “[clubbers were] manifesting symptoms showing that they were [on drugs]. This included sweating, glazed red eyes and staring into space”, “people in the smoking area [were] enquiring about the purchase of drugs…I believe within earshot of the security officer” – were subsequently mentioned in the council’s statement, and used as further justification for the venue’s closure. However, according to the Independent, the initial police report also found that “the general atmosphere of the club was friendly and non-threatening” and that “there was a diverse demographic in regards to race, [with people speaking] French, Italian and Chinese”. Unsurprisingly, none of these positive observations were mentioned in the statement.
This undercover police operation, named ‘Operation Lenor’, (presumably referencing the well-known brand of fabric conditioner) was clearly targeted at the club itself rather than specifically at drug use. The previously mentioned Independent article went on to conclude that the venue’s closure was probably initiated by a ‘cash-strapped council’, in the wake of severe ‘budget cuts’ for the police and other services. According to them, the temptation of receiving money from overseas property investors was too great, and the closure is largely down to ‘a government that continues to roll back public services and institutions in an ever more calculating attempt to attract foreign money.’
Whatever the real reason behind the closure, it has been widely suggested that it will not prevent the use of drugs, and ultimately not prevent drug-related deaths. Mixmag’s Seb Wheeler has ‘warned authorities that closing clubs will not end drug use’ and suggested that police need to become ‘more educated’ in their approach to keeping clubbers safe. On 15th August, Dazed published a preemptive piece called ‘Why Shutting Down Fabric Won’t Stop Drug Deaths’. Satirical news publications have joined in the criticism, with Wunderground yesterday posting a piece announcing ‘Nation’s Drug Problem Solved Now Fabric Is Closed Indefinitely’. Even Islington’s own MP had previously suggested that a decision to close was misguided, saying “we must guard against the assumption that dangerous drug use would cease simply if we were to close a nightclub like Fabric.”
It is worth noting that during the enquiry, police refused to pay heed to the suggestion that on-site drug testing equipment, like that used at the Secret Garden Party festival in Cambridgeshire this year, could be an efficient way of preventing drug-related deaths at the venue. Furthermore, when asked how the Manchester Police managed to allow similar drugs testing at Warehouse Project, the response was simply “We don’t know”. This sort of equipment is regularly used at festivals in Germany and the Netherlands, with really positive results. The fact that London police are unwilling to attempt this common-sense approach seems to highlight the authorities’ willful ignorance on the topic of drug taking. Ultimately, it is music fans who suffer because of this incompetent approach.
It has been speculated that the decision to close Fabric will have a hugely negative impact on London’s night-time economy. The world-famous club bought in visitors from all over the globe, and was one of the UK’s most captivating attractions for fans of electronic music. Some have even suggested that the club’s closure overshadows and undermines celebrations around London’s new night tube. In addition to all of this, 250 people have lost their jobs as a result of the decision.
All in all, the news has left the electronic music community shocked and distressed. Fabric have since announced they plan to appeal the licensing decision, and hope to raise £500,000 to aid with legal costs, with a Fund for Fabric campaign.