Rejoice! All of culture has been saved! For a while it seemed as though we were all doomed, culture was dead and all of London was a sterilised cesspit of soullessness, but thanks to an out of court settlement between Islington Council and the nightclub fabric, it seems as though we really did do it! We saved fabric and thus culture itself! Besides a few (32) alterations listed in the (155 page) settlement agreement that outline a procedure that will undoubtedly remove all drugs from clubs, fabric will once again open its doors to the public after it has adhered to these rules. The war on drugs has finally succeeded and all drugs have vanished from London and culture has been saved. This is a victory for London nightlife and an apparent win against the much villainised Islington Council – so why does it feel so hollow?
Let’s start with some of the 32 new licensing conditions agreed upon by fabric and Islington Council, notably the ones that deal with privacy. These include new ID scanners at the entrance to the club, improved lighting for more rigorous CCTV with a position of a full time CCTV operator being created to observe clubbers, covert surveillance and a more rigorous search on entry to the club. Whilst I am not against these new additions if it means that fabric reopens, it does cause a certain level of worry as to the privacy of a clubber at fabric. The addition of a fulltime CCTV operator and improved lighting is the most worrying for me at the moment – the thought of a middle aged bloke eyefucking me through a camera whilst I use a urinal is a little unsettling in any case, although only time will tell how rigorous the new CCTV is going to be. I also have no idea as to the severity of these new security checks, as once again only time will tell, but I certainly will not be a frequent returner if getting probed becomes a Saturday night ritual. Whilst there lies a fairly concrete argument in that ‘if you aren’t doing anything wrong, these new changes won’t affect you’, I can’t help but feel a sense of unease when these new changes are coupled with the new UK surveillance laws passed only a week ago. But hey, if it means fabric reopens, these are the conditions we have to live with.
“This is a victory for London nightlife…so why does it feel so hollow?”
Then there’s the frankly absurd conditions and alterations agreed on. The age of entry has been raised by a whole year from 18 to 19. Whilst I was expecting the age of entry to raise to 21, it seems rather fruitless to increase the age limit by just one year as if to blame 18 year olds specifically for drug related harm. I genuinely cannot see what this will do to help. As I have previously mentioned in my last article (which you can read here) my main issue lies in harm reduction and preventing further deaths, an issue that is still not being dealt with. By raising the legal age a year there has been little done to educate or prevent harm, it simply demonises a specific age range and makes them responsible. Other changes include receiving a lifetime ban for muttering the letters ‘m d m a’ on the dancefloor, another step towards attempting to eliminate a problem that cannot be eliminated, rather than try and deal with harm reduction. The majority of the changes focus on stamping out drugs to make fabric the ‘gold precedent for clubbing’, a.k.a. a drug free zone to prove that the war on drugs is working. The next part is where I get confused. The alterations agreed on so far have been focused on eliminating and pretending drug taking does not occur in nightclubs, yet The Loop, an organisation I have always sung praises for initiative in drug harm reduction, are still going to be involved with fabric, as per the new licensing conditions. Don’t get me wrong, I was relieved when I found this out, I just can’t fathom their role in a new fabric which assumes it is a drug free place. For instance, if anyone is ill after taking a dodgy pill, do we help them and then ban them for life, or just kick them out the door? Do we acknowledge that drugs are still going to be taken inside fabric and try and help, or just try and clamp down and prevent? It seems strange to me that the new rules are the harshest against drug use I have seen, to the degree they expect no drugs to be taken, but then still keep on a drug harm reduction team.
These new compliances aren’t the be all and end all of clubbing. Let’s face it, fabric is an institution and the nights they throw will still be incredible, regardless of any changes. But here’s my real issue with the matter. Islington Council succeeded. They took fabric away, backed them into the corner, forced them to adhere to any changes they wanted and then settled out of court, preventing the chance for legislative change. This appears to be a victory (we got fabric back!) but then you remember it should never have gone. The fact that fabric had to pay for the legal proceedings for the council themselves is just absurd. I can’t help but feel this was inevitable, and that if there are ill feelings to other nightclubs they can shut them down just to reopen them with restrictive laws that hide the problem of drug related harm and push them to other places in the city. Raising the age of entry by a year seems to hide from the problem by making that age demographic disappear, rather than educating a younger age group properly about drugs. Fuck, only last week a 15-year-old boy spiked his school water fountain with MDMA and a growing number of 15-16 year olds are ending up in hospital after taking ecstasy, proving how ineffectual the war on drugs really is as pills and drugs become stronger and more readily available.
“These new compliances aren’t the be all and end all of clubbing”
We got fabric back, and for all my sarcasm, I really and truly am glad, even if it feels as though it was deliberately closed just to be softened to better suit Islington Council’s ideas of what a club should be and prevent actual work being done to address the problem of drugs. The new alterations certainly don’t address drug harm prevention in a manner I would have liked to have seen, but here’s hoping the remaining donated money left in the #saveourculture is used to help change legislation. This is undoubtedly a victory against the closure of London venues, but by no means has the problem of drug related harm been addressed in these new changes, and I worry that in time this means more preventable deaths will occur throughout the country.