Was the club holding together the fabric of London’s already diminishing nightlife?
Today marks a sad day in the history of the collapse of London nightlife. Despite the petition with 150,066 signatures and counting, the infamous Farringdon nightclub Fabric has had its license officially revoked by Islington Council after its suspension following two drug-related deaths. Established DJ’s and artists like Chase and Status and Bassline Smith, who have played at the venue and supported it, believe that London nightlife has finally been put to bed.
During the review last night, police presented evidence from a covert operation which uncovered the nightclub staff’s negligence towards the apparently open purchase and consumption of illegal substances. They described Fabric as an “environment tolerant of drugs and crime”, and accused staff and security of inadequately searching party-goers upon entrance to the venue. Only eight months ago, Fabric’s systems were tested and they were crowned a ‘beacon of best practice’, even setting an example for failing licensees, who were sent to observe the management of London’s most popular nightclub. Alan Miller, the chairman of Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) stated, “if operational measures Fabric already have in place aren’t enough to satisfy a license committee, then no club stands a chance”.
Many feel that the responsibility does not lie fully within the nightclub’s ability to control the drug use of its guests, but with the government to improve its drug awareness in young people. It seems as though just talking to Frank isn’t enough these days. If the inevitability of being introduced to drugs in environments such as Fabric is an uncontrollable one, then what should be controlled is the users’ awareness of the dangers, and if they are to take drugs at all, how to take them in the safest way possible. This would in turn influence not only those considering taking drugs for a night out in London, but also those travelling far and wide for a whole weekend filled with drugs and music – a festival. Drug use has always been a problem at festivals: there is nearly always a tragic headline of drug-related deaths following the weekend. There is progress being made to tackle drug use at festivals, with free drug testing and amnesty bins. It gets users thinking twice about what they’re actually taking, and when they find out their MDMA is 50% paracetamol, they can decide whether to hand it in or keep it without any repercussions. Could similar campaigns be implemented at nightclubs such as Fabric?
Yet police appear uninterested in the idea. During the review for Fabric’s closure, the police failed to answer questions regarding anonymous drug testing at Fabric, and decided they had no confidence that the establishment would meet the license conditions at all, had it remained open. They plainly believed that more drug-related deaths would occur, despite the licensing team being open to industry experts training them on drug awareness. Shutting down one night club, arguably one of the most popular nightclubs, will not prevent further drug-related deaths. It just means there will be less of them dying on Charterhouse Street: the crime will simply be displaced. There is no doubt the deaths are truly tragic, and something must be done, but was closing down an iconic part of London’s nightlife the only solution? Overnight they decided that the nightclub, which was a beacon of best practice, no longer satisfied licensing requirements. Do we have to wait for more drug-related deaths to occur and consequently shut down the corresponding club, or is the government actually prepared to do something about the youth of the country’s drug problem?
The capital’s new mayor, Sadiq Khan is fighting to save London’s night time economy. Over the past eight years, London has lost 50% of its nightclubs and 40% of its live music venues – The Mayor of London is on the lookout to appoint a ‘Night Czar’ to join him in the fight to save London’s nightlife. He posted on his Facebook account today “No single organisation or public body can solve these problems alone – we all need to work together to ensure London thrives as a 24-hour city, in a way that is safe and enjoyable for everyone.”