At 1am this morning, Islington Council ruled that fabric London would have its license permanently revoked. After a long and acrimonious hearing, where numerous representatives from the club and the public testified to the seriousness with which fabric had addressed drug concerns, the council ultimately decided to side with the police, and pull the plug on a business that’s been bringing cultural and economic capital to London for 20 years.
The reason given for this verdict was that the venue fostered a ‘culture of drug use’. According to Islington Council’s final decision, “staff intervention and security was grossly inadequate in light of the overwhelming evidence that it was abundantly obvious that patrons in the club were on drugs and manifesting symptoms showing that they were. This included sweating, glazed red eyes and staring into space, and people asking for help.” It would be easy to pick holes in this kind of police intel all day – the drug symptoms they’ve listed as particularly damning including sweating in a space where people dance. They were also cherry picked from the notes of an undercover poice operation in 2014 that noted how international, friendly and non-threatening the club was.
In keeping with the pie-eyed assaults the police launched on the club, tweets sent out from inside the hearing painted a debate that regularly descended into the farcical – it turns out the Metropolitan force simply ‘didn’t know’ how Warehouse Project had been able to introduce drug testing kits in their venue. And we’d be laughing about police suggestions that a ‘ban’ on ‘faster bpms’ would decrease drug use – well, we’d be laughing if these lunatics hadn’t ultimately won the day.
fabric have released a statement following the decision. It says all they need to say:
"fabric is extremely disappointed with Islington Council's decision to revoke our license. This is an especially sad day for those who have supported us, particularly the 250 staff who will now lose their jobs. Closing fabric is not the answer to the drug-related problems clubs like ours are working to prevent, and sets a troubling precedent for the future of London's night time economy."
We can expand on that – yes this is an incredibly troubling precedent, it’s also a handy reminder that we live in a country ruled in the interests of an increasingly shrinking elite. Many, many people thought that electing a mayor who said he would protect the city's nightlife might show an improvement in our city’s cultural outlook. It turns out that Sadiq Khan can do sweet F.A. except wring his hands from the sidelines and try and face every which way at once. It’s hard not to suspect that Sadders pocketed far too many donations from property developers to ever really be effectual... Which brings us neatly to this tweet from MistaJam that shows the most likely reason fabric has been closed – *Spoiler* it’s probably not for drugs.
It’s a brutal truth that every Londoner knows. The city is being carved up into real estate and sold off as ghost complexes, ugly ‘luxury’ blocks that scar the skyline and self-replicate like so many gremlins doused in water. The investment money poured into their bland chrome multiplies so it can buy more bland chrome to further multiply to buy more bland chrome, a useless, hollow ouroboros consuming cities in its haste to chew its own tail. The plan (if there is a plan rather than a grubby ruck of short term greed) appears to be the creation of a haunted city, a place where smart phone activated concierges protect access to empty apartments and void spreads from the centre out.
The idea that fabric was closed because of any sort of concern over drug deaths is horse shit. It’s quite possible that some of the coppers in the hearing believed this was the case, and perhaps even some of the councillors making the decision. But if they believe that closing fabric is the answer they are quite clearly incompetent. If they had any sort of concern over drug deaths, they would recognise that a controlled space such as fabric is far easier to police than the uncontrolled boom in illegal raves they’ve just inadvertently green lit. To a certain kind of young raver, this state sanctioned clamp down on dance culture feels like a declaration of war, the kind of thing identities are forged in opposition to. The council have taken away London’s flagship venue, a place reknowned for doing things by the book? Well then, the book can get fucked. Watch as the outskirts of London (and even the centre, before the property developers get too smug) start to play host to a whole lot more illegal parties run by kids with bolt cutters, speakers, a few hundred mates and a sense of adventure. Personally I look forward to it – except there will definitely be more deaths.
The real reasons fabric has closed have far more to do with austerity enabled gentrification than any supposed care about drug fatalities. fabric noted that the police had inexplicably changed their approach in the last 2 years, with the club having previously been seen as a bastion of good drugs practice. As this well researched article in the Independent points out, Islington council are facing huge budgetary cuts – £70 million over four years – all due to George Osborne’s economically inept austerity project. The stacks of money fabric paid in taxes went back into the country as a whole, rather than direct to the pocket of the council – so the council have been pursuing a policy of shutting down a venue that upped their police bill since they first felt austerities bite. And who benefits from this decision? Well it’s certainly not the youth that this was supposed to protect. So who then? It’s hard not assume that someone, somewhere has been made aware of Islington councils desire to shut the club, has eyed up the plot fabric is built on and nudged, canoodled and schmoozed until it’s license was pulled. This isn’t conspiracy theory nonsense, this is a level headed appraisal of the situation. A great number of people, from staff to artists to clubbers, lose out from fabric’s closure. A far fewer amount of already wealthy people most definitely benefit, and this unsustainable ratio is par for the course in Britain today. Until we start redressing the balance, this city, perhaps this country, is slumping into a bland irrelevence it may never escape.