Posts Tagged ‘London’

At this moment, Fabric, one of the best known, respected and loved clubs in London has a very uncertain future. While I find this deeply upsetting on a personal level (I have so many happy memories of nights spend there), it is unfortunately part of a much bigger problem. The UK has lost half of all of its clubs in the last 10 years. This has happened for a variety of reasons but the pattern is clear… and if we don’t act now to protect existing clubs and encourage new ones, we might lose them for good

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If you haven’t already signed the save Fabric petition, please do it here

Worldwide shift in electronic music

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One of the strange things about club closures is that, in the UK and worldwide, electronic music is more popular than ever. The clubbing scene has always been tightly bound to these genres of music, so surely having more fans should mean more club punters? Unfortunately in reality it has not worked out this way. A lot of new fans are too young to get into a club. Even if they could, they may not want to anyway, electronic music is played in homes, cars and everywhere else. The idea that the club is the natural home for those genres is no longer as strong. There are obviously tons of fans who are old enough though but a lot of them would rather go to a festival to see big ‘superstar DJs’ playing to 1000s rather than a more intimate venue. Clearly a lot of new fans are still interested in clubbing. When I go out nowadays, there are still plenty of young ‘uns but it is way more mixed in age than it ever used to be

Also nightlife itself has evolved, there are many pop up raves in unusual places, DJ bars, sober morning parties etc. which are very cool but again take away a lot of traditional club business. We might see club closure as a particularly UK based problem, but I hear reports from all over the world that a lot of traditional venues are being shut

Change in licensing laws

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Over the last 10 years, it has become easier than ever to get alcohol after 11 PM. Late opening bars and pubs have become increasingly common. Once again, this is something I really appreciate but it does take a lot of business away from clubs. Back when I started clubbing, people would often move on to a club at 11 pm because it was the only option for continuing the night, nowadays you have options. Bars often have DJs and dancefloors so even if you wanted to dance, you could be well catered for without actually going to a club (but always stay well clear of those ‘music too loud to talk/no room to dance’ bars, those places are the worst). This has probably made the clubbing experience better as there are less people there who only want to get completely lashed but it has still meant that the clubs themselves have taken another economic hit

The rise of tinder

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Just like the “I’m only here to get plastered” crowd, the “I’m only here to pull” bunch used to be a regular part of the scene. People who didn’t care about the music or about the dancing or even about the alcohol. They just wanted to get busy and the club was the best place to meet people for a fleeting dalliance. Nowadays, there are definitely easier ways of finding a squeeze, almost all technology based. Once again, I think that the absence of those people has made the club experience much nicer, but again less punters means less profit.

Drug policy

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I could  write a whole post on the absurdity of the ‘war on drugs’ and the broad range of social harm that it has caused. However in the case of clubs, drug policy is applied in a particularly unproductive way, often used as stick to keep them in line. Many clubs have had their license revoked on the basis of people taking drugs there. I still remember when Home was shut ostensibly because their door policy was too lax (but everyone knew that it was because they were being very vocal about not being given a late license). Fabric now faces closure because 2 people have died while on drugs there, there is no evidence that they bought the drugs there and Fabric’s door policy is generally considered ‘gold standard’. Still, I would imagine 1000s of people take illegal drugs there every month, without incident. Inevitably, many are suggesting that the answer is stronger door checks with police (including sniffer dogs) outside. This is the worst possible way of dealing with the problem. Rather than trying to stop people taking drugs (which never works), we should be focused on preventing drug deaths.

While tragic, deaths from common club drugs are actually pretty rare (or at least far rarer than alcohol related deaths). They usually down to either toxic impurities in the drugs or a higher potency than expected (causing users to take higher doses than they were expecting). If someone buys drugs then they are likely to take them at some point, whether they are allowed into a club with them or not. So if people do go to a club we should see this as an opportunity rather than a problem. Don’t add extra security and confiscate them, rather let them in and have testing stations that can assess both strength and purity and provide advice on safe amounts to take, levels of hydration etc. Don’t create a situation where people fear the bouncers and the police and so down their whole night’s supply when they see them and overdose. Sometimes people will even refuse to see the club medics because they fear getting in trouble, this is a climate that creates poor outcomes. Ultimately legalisation, regulation and taxation would be the best way to clean up the supply. Until them a liberalisation of the way we police drugs could effect an immediate improvement in the risks, almost every club death is preventable if we are open minded about how to tackle them

Rising rent

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London is becoming a little bit absurd in this respect, there is almost nowhere that is safe from rampant gentrification. There are even some parts which have become quite like ghost towns as the only people who can afford to buy a home there are investors who have no desire to live there or even rent the property out. I don’t think all gentrification is bad, but when it prices everyone out, it has gone too far. Running a club is expensive and the rising rent has been the final nail in some of their economic coffins. Even worse than that, many landlords have not even given them the option to continue renting the space and have sold up to property developers for a tidy profit. Turns out some people would rather get a quick buck over owning a piece of cultural heritage.

Nimbyism

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These are the most frustrating reasons why clubs close down: disputes over soundproofing, drunken revellers at closing time or litter on the pavement. There are many NIMBY reasons people give for why their local venue is a menace. Sometimes they really do have a point but closing the venue seems a very heavyhanded way of dealing with them. Every other possible avenue should be exhausted before that is even on the table as a possibility.

Shortsightedness

So if there are still plenty of places to go on a Friday night and get your groove on, should we even care about all the club closures? Do we need them anymore?

I truly believe the answer is yes. Music has been one of the greatest exports from the UK in the last 100 years and clubs have been a vital part of that. They have offered one of the purest forms of escapism for generations of party goers looking to listen to great music, dance with friends and forget their weekly woes. Festivals, bars and house parties are all fun but nothing quite compares to a club night.

That is a very personal argument though, and maybe not everyone shares my passion but everyone should still care about these places. Clubs are not the only thing being closed – many live music venues, theatres, pubs, independent cinemas and other venues have also been suffering recently. These are intrisically part of our cultural heritage, they are part of what make our country great. With everyone that goes we are losing a battle in a slow war of attrition that will turn our cities into beige blandscapes with no life and no flavour.

What to do

It is clear that we need to take action to protect our clubs. But what actually can be done? I feel we need some drastic action, firstly with a protection scheme similar to listed buildings to make it harder to redevelop culturally important space into soulless office blocks or high end investment residences. Secondly we should encourage the development of more clubs, other venues and new forms of nightlife. In London, the arrival of the night tube should be a huge boon for this and development should be encouraged along these lines. The way we tackle drug-taking in clubs should be radically altered.

This sort of change takes time, for now, the most important thing would be to make it easier to appeal licensing decisions so that a council cannot just hand a venue a death sentence. If Fabric’s license is revoked then it will be a deeply upsetting day for clubbers all across the country and the world. If we don’t act soon though, it will not be the last… not by a long shot

Peace, Love, Unity, Respect

Dataphiles

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If you’ve had your eye on the Dataphiles Facebook and Twitter feeds, you might have noticed that I’m promoting a remix of Oliver Heldens and Shaun Franks Deep house anthem – Shades of Grey. Its part of a remix competition for Spinnin records. If you could take a moment out of your busy day to go and vote for it here … it would mean the world to me. Voting is only open for a limited time so please get those ballots in 🙂

I quite enjoyed doing the remix, (and also dressing up as deady bear to promote it/lovingly parody the original video) and I’m intending on doing more remixing in the future so let me know if there is anything you’d like to hear me rework.

Even though voting ends soon, I’m going to leave the track up as a free download on soundcloud, so grab a copy and enjoy.

Peace, Love, Unity, Respect – Dataphiles

Smokeless Jazz??

Posted: December 31, 2009 in Random
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I went to a Jazz club this evening, first time I’ve been since the smkoing ban. It was quite surreal to be able to fully see the acts, and the other people you’re crammed up against in proper Jazz club style. I’m not entirely convinced that coming out smelling of other people is better than smelling of smoke but hey, you tend to come out smelling of other people everywhere you go now.

Still the venue was pretty cool, going for a raised approach instead of underground, in quite surreal surroundings. So if you’re in Stoke-Newington and need a Jazz fix check out The Vortex

Love and Peace

Dataphiles