Last night the London Borough of Islington’s licencing committee met to discuss the future of London’s iconic Fabric nightclub. As you’ll know by now: In the early hours of this morning they chose to close it.
Following the deaths of teenagers Ryan Browne and Jack Crossley at the club this summer the Metropolitan Police asked Islington to revoke Fabric’s licence to operate. The club had already closed voluntarily in order to assist with the investigation into the teenagers’ deaths. Now the club is closed permanently.
For an overwhelming percentage of its history Fabric had worked closely with the Metropolitan Police to ensure drug-related incidents were kept to a minimum. However, four earlier drug-related deaths were sufficient cause for a 2014 licence review and the two deaths earlier this summer meant lead to calls for the club to be closed. Last night’s meeting was the culmination of that.
Now, normally what happens in London isn’t of immediate concern to 1 Brighton FM but it is impossible to let this pass without comment. Simply put, the repercussions of this decision could have a detrimental impact on Brighton’s nightlife and club culture in the future – and we stand firmly alongside Fabric. Just like Kelvin Andrews, a regular guest on the station we are: “Truly gutted” Kelvin continues: “I played there so often. The production team, management, staff and talent were always second to none. They totally changed the concept of underground clubbing in London and influenced everything in sight.”
Fabric, which opened in 1999, is at the heart of London’s nightlife. It has given opportunities to hundreds of great DJs and supported genres in their infancy. Many of our DJs have played there and our listeners (and DJs!) have danced and struggled home on the first train of the morning after a memorable night there.
We are concerned because what happens in London tends to be mirrored here. We have already seen several pubs and bars lose their licences when new neighbours have moved in and then complained about noise. West Street, routinely avoided by locals but a destination for tourists, the clubs beneath the arches and those in and around Kemptown are essential elements of Brighton’s proud and diverse nightlife and we hope they are taking notice of what is happening to Fabric and will respond accordingly. Furthermore we hope that the Brighton & Hove licencing committee is aware of the public opposition to Islington’s decision.
I spoke to Bill Brewster, author of Last Night A DJ Saved My Life and a DJ at Fabric since it opened: “Any death is obviously really bad and there have been a few at Fabric but to put it in context 60 died in 2014 from ecstasy. Roughly 650 die every year from falling down stairs and around 9,000 die annually from cirrhosis of the liver and this doesn’t even count the other alcohol related deaths. There’s a complete lack of perspective about drugs in the UK.
”Portugal, which decriminalised drugs in 2001, has three overdoses per a million people. The UK has 44 per 1million.”
We at 1 Brighton aren’t advocating any drug use at all but it’s clear that closing nightclubs will not prevent people from taking them. It’s really that simple. Fabric closing will not stop a single person from taking drugs or dying from them. They will take them and die elsewhere. In Brighton we have a rich history of underground parties – a nostalgic view is that these were magical ‘all in it together’ events beneath the stars. And yes, they were usually a bit special. But they were also a huge drain on public resources – every time an illegal rave occurs the Police and Argus react in horror – yet, by closing nightclubs this is exactly what is going to happen.
Bill continues: “Drugs are a smokescreen for what’s really going on, which is further gentrification of an area very close to the West End. The Museum of London is moving into the old Smithfield Market building across the road. Developers are circling round the area like vultures.”
The list of Brighton nightclubs that have been closed, even in recent times, makes for depressing reading: Ocean Rooms, Free Butt, Gloucester, Jazz Rooms, Engine Rooms, Enigma, Basement, Underground, Pressure Point, Blind Tiger and countless more have been shut down for various reasons. The Bulldog has been under threat for months. Of course, not every venue complies with its licence and these complaints need to be looked into – after all, none of us want to be at risk on a night out – but, nightlife is an integral part of what makes Brighton and Hove so appealing to tourists, students and locals alike.
We hope Fabric appeals this decision and wins. Furthermore we trust that when the police, developers and complaining neighbours next come a-calling Brighton and Hove City Council are more supportive of the amazing nightlife and club culture that this city offers than Islington have been of theirs.