Was it all a bad dream? 2016. It was a year we would probably all like to forget and move on from. Decisions were made (pretty bad ones) that would shake the world and divide nations, from Brexit to the US general elections I think we can all agree its been a year that often felt was taken directly from the script of a bad soap opera or worst still, ‘that’ episode of The Simpsons. The ‘curse’ of 2016 didn’t only affect us politically it also hit hard when London’s most prolific nightclub, fabric was forced to close its doors in the early hours of September 7th. The events that would unfold over the months to follow were moving, powerful and heart-warming. Ahead of fabrics re-opening this weekend we look back at how Islington Councils bad decision caused an entire community to come together and unite to prevent the closure of one of the greatest cultural hubs of our generation, and in short save a part of London’s nightlife culture.
On the 6th of September Islington Council and fabric came together to decide on the fate of the London nightclub which was facing having its licence revoked by the Metropolitan Police following the tragic deaths of two young clubbers who had lost their lives in the London venue previously that year. By revoking the fabric’s licence Islington Council and the Metropolitan Police aimed to prevent any further drug related deaths. However as a central part of London’s nightlife culture the closure of fabric posed a huge threat and represented a far bigger issue. Over the past ten years UK nightlight had taken a major hit with clubs across the country hitting an all time decline of 50%, in 2005 there were 3144 clubs last year saw this number plummet to a mere 1733. In London alone popular venues such as Shapes, Cable, Turnmills, Vibe Bar, Plastic People and many more were being forced to close their doors over the past few years. The closure of fabric seemed to be last straw in the flight to keep London’s night culture alive. Prior to the licence being reviewed fabric promoter of eight years Jacob Husley created a petition to save the club, which would then be used to support the case in the 6th of September. Jacob Husley started the petition with a single signature and with the support of the nightlife and arts culture was able to gather 160,664 supporters.
The support came flowing in from all corners of the world with backing from artists, public figures and highly regarded members of the music industry. The review was communicated on a live feed following the review, we all followed this on edge listening to the heart felt and moving speech from fabric director Cameron Leslie, and for a moment there was a glimmer of hope. However as the fateful hour fell upon us at 2:00am on 7th September Islington council ruled that fabric was to close its doors indefinitely. Something inside all of us died a little.
The Fight Back
”We are determined to fight the council’s decision and challenge the way that the police brought this review against us. Without challenge these tactics could close every licensed premises in the country, something needs to change or our night-time economy and culture will continue in this worrying spiral of decline.
To achieve this we need your help.” – fabric
The sudden closure of fabric sparked a wave of unity across London’s nightlife community and beyond. Fabric reached out and in a statement later made asked for support in fighting the decision of the council in what would be seen as an appeal taking place in late November. #saveourculture fund was born. The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) #savenightlife campaign also played a huge part in the on-going fight and awareness of how important our night culture was to our community, following the launch of year-long #nightlifematters series aimed at celebrating British club culture. The NTIA’s campaign gives a voice to everyone who is passionate nightlife, for every signature provided an email would be sent directly the local Councillor and MP in their area and in short going straight to the decision maker. To support and coincide with fabrics closure the NTIA put together a short film featuring respected industry professionals such as Andy C, Kate Simko, Artwork, Bill Brewster to talk about fabric and what London’s culture would lose if fabric were to close for good. The film really hit home as to what was at steak if we were to lose the iconic cultural heart of the nightlight community.
The month of October marked a huge month of fundraising to help raise the costs needed. The sheer response to the fundraising campaigns proved further still that this gloomy event had in fact brought people closer together, everyone was willing to reach into their pockets to help create a change. From NTIA’s #savenightlife campaign to fabrics very own #saveourculture fund everyone was set on to not only saving the future of fabric but saving our culture and the freedom we all had to express ourselves freely to the music we love. Individuals also began to create their own fundraising schemes to support the cause. One case that stood out to me in particular was 24hr Footwork, whereby Tim Griffiths danced for 24hours non-stop outside the doors of fabric in order to raise money to contribute towards fabric’s legal fees. The response he got from not only the UK but around world was huge and resulted in him beating his target and raising a staggering £2,060 of a £2,000 goal.
“At the heart of this, is a passion for our underground electronic community, which encapsulates everything from the friends we’ve met, and the memories we hold, to the music and venues we know, love and respect.
Don’t stand for it! #danceforit” – Tom Griffith
MEOKO also worked hard to unite spirits during this difficult time and managed to set a peaceful protest in place in hope to save and protect nightlife culture. Having attracted a huge response since the beginning of September, it was clear that this was an issue which had affected many and that we where all passionate about. After weeks of preparation the march took place on October 8th. Taking place through the streets of East London and finishing up in London Fields, the march was supported by the NTIA as well as key figures in the music industry. The talks made at the event by key speakers showed that this was a fight nobody was giving up on and that as a community we would continue to come together in unity.
”It’s been touching to see so many people from across the music industry coming together, and we’re so happy to see so many different promoters organising events specifically to raise funds for our campaign.” – fabric
From fundraising to dancing to crowd funding people everywhere became active in the fabrics on going struggle to raise the required legal fees to fight the closure of the club. During the months to come #saveourculuture fundraisers became a feature on the London party scene, boasting line-ups that took inspiration from fabrics Friday and Saturday programming. Artists such as Darius Syrossian, Bushwacka!, Finnebassen, Levon Vincent, Ricardo Villalobos, Seth Troxler, Rødhåd, Ben Klock, Joy Orbison, Job Jobse, Nicolas Lutz, Scuba, Nina Kraviz, Alan Fitzpatrick, Jamie Jones graced the decks of these events proving that this was a cause close to everyone’s hearts. Not only were these fundraisers put on in London but places as far as Manchester, Oslo and Ibiza threw parties to support the #saveourculture cause. It was no longer a UK issue, it had become global. The #saveourculture fundraisers proved that just because fabrics doors had been closed the music didn’t have to stop, and this time people were dancing for a cause. We were dancing to support the scene and in turn helping to preserve London’s nightlife at home and abroad.
On November 21st fabric confirmed the news that their licence had been won back. A wave of joy and relief washed over us all, as a community we had come together to fight for a change and we had won. The reopening date was confirmed for January 6th with a series of stellar line-ups that featured some of the finest tastemakers in the industry. Fabric had been saved and its events for 2017 proved that its here to stay. We saved fabric.
”We really would not be here today without your unparalleled support and generosity. So many different people stepped up to put their voices to our cause, artists from all corners of the music community, fellow promoters who have put on huge events from us and clubbers from around the world who all united behind us.” – fabric
Ahead of the re-opening we caught up with fabrics Andy Blackett to talk about fabrics recents journey and whats in store for the club in 2017.
The #saveourculture campaign received an overwhelming response from both industry professionals and music lovers, how do you think this united the community?
The support was overwhelming. At times it was the only source of strength we had to keep us going. Seeing what we meant to people really gave us the energy to keep fighting and seeing the nightlife community pull together for us was humbling to say the least. This really struck a chord with me, I remember thinking at the time ‘London and the UK might be going through a tough time at the moment but if we can stay united like this, it can one make us stronger at a community and things can only better’.
I had an interesting chat with Carl Cox and Norman Jay at the DJ mag awards. They compared the uproar against the decision to revoke our license to what they experienced during the time the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act was introduced, OK, they are very different when broken down but the similarities were there in that fabric was the trigger for young people to unite behind something and say ‘hold up, we aren’t standing for this’.
We really want repay the support the community gave us and will lend advice and support where ever we can if needed.
Is the #saveourculture fund something that you plan to continue running into 2017, and if so what will the fund be used towards?
We closed donations to the fund and released the final transparency statement last year which is here for anyone who missed it. The surplus money’s in a segregated account and we’re currently looking at putting it into a trust or giving it charitable status. It will continue to be used to fund Philip Kolvin QC (who is the country’s top licencing barrister and has just been made Night Time Commissioner) to pursue reform to licencing law which seeks to protect all venues from having legal action taken against them, unless it’s an absolute last resort. This has already been heard in the House of Lords and he’ll continue to champion it this year. It’ll also be used to help with other industry associated causes.
Do you think we can take the re-opening of fabric as comfort that our nightlife culture in London is finally being recognised?
I hope it’s the tipping point moment in the way our industry is viewed, we are massive financial contributors to the nation’s economy, which was £66 billion at the last estimate I believe. Aside from that I feel London has grasped that culture and nightlife on all levels – from museums to theatre to live music venues to nightclubs – all contribute to the soul of the city and is what sets vibrant cities apart from others.
Britain has always had an edge, be that from music, fashion or the arts. We had punk, Northern Soul, Drum and Bass, mods, rockers, rave culture in to club culture and so on. All these generational moments have left there footprint on what our country is about. I hope the future generations have the freedom and opportunity to leave their own footprint on it.
As an organisation in order to come to an agreement with the council you have agreed to stricter rules within the club, how do you think this will affect peoples clubbing experience?
If we get them right the customer won’t notice the difference. It will take us time to get these all 100%, so we hope people will work with us on them. But, all the important elements are still there – the people, music and sound system.
Plus a real positive is that we’ve added a new role of Welfare Officer to the club team. Someon
whose sole responsibility is to look out for all our customers’ wellbeing. In addition to this all our staff ar
undergoing training in collaboration
ith The Loop to help increase drug awareness and safety.
Ultimately, we’re asking everyone to come with a respect for our new conditions. It’s really important that everyone takes personal responsibility to look after themselves and each other.
I think we can all agree the last few months have been extremely tough, name one thing that’s really stood out for you during this fight?
It’s incredibly difficult to name one thing that has stood out – there’s been so many moments – but having taken some time to think about it it’s very easy to pick one thing and that’s YOU our fans. The support the general public, artists and friendly competitors (as I now call them) has been the only thing that has kept us afloat. Without your support the campaign would never have got off the ground and the pressure on the decision makers would have not had the same weight to get all parties to broker a deal to get us reopen
So we thank you!
As a community how can we continue to support London nightlife to ensure something of this nature doesn’t repeat itself?
We need to engage with local and national issues as a community and industry. We need to lend our support to Amy Lame (London’s new Night Czar) and Philip Kolvin QC (Night Time Commissioner). They have a lot of work to do but if they can get the Council, Police and the industry working together with common goals I believe we will secure and protect the capital’s night life as one of the best in the world again.
How do you think the London clubbing scene has shaped fabric?
Without London’s vibrant scene we wouldn’t have so much fantastic emerging talent to draw from – supporting new artists has always been a huge part of our programming and ethos. And it’s this community who are down here every weekend that shape the vibe and atmosphere of the place – even though we are a larger club we still feel a huge connection to it.
Your doors will re-open in January, what’s in store for fabric in 2017?
We have a few changes happening to the stable of nights we do at the venue, we thought it was time to broaden the range a little. Saturdays will essentially stay the same with our residents Craig Richards and Terry Francis being the corner stones of the night with the quality house and techno DJ we have always brought in.
Fridays will see the biggest change. FABRICLIVE will live consistently on every last Friday of the month but there will still be at least couple a month in total, coming in at about25 a year. It’s still very much the foundation for Fridays and fabric as whole. We’ve heard people saying we are turning our back on D’n’B and other genres, this is far from the case. We’re standing firmly with it so expect to see plenty of DnB, Grime, Dub Step, and the sounds that FABRICLIVE is known for in Farringdon.
The truth of the matter is that running a 52 week a year club you need have variety in your line ups to keep the nights strong and healthy. By condensing FABRICLIVE we are in fact making each night stronger with less talent spreading across the year.
On the remaining Fridays – as well from hosting label parties with some of our long starting artists and partners at the club – we have some exciting new nights instore. One is the ‘Curates’ series we’re launching that with DVS1 on 13th January. This is where fabric invites some of the artists we have immense respect for to curate the whole venue. We’re aiming to roll this out 4-6 times this year.
Further to this we’re bringing in some artists that we just ran out of space for Saturday but more than deserved to play at the club, these nights will allow us to be more diverse we the line ups. A good example of this is Craig’s Nothing Special Label. We can now host it in the right context with his core artist’s dBridge, Calibre and Radioactive Man on a Friday outside of the FABRICLIVE banner.
For full details of fabrics listings and ticket information click HERE
Words & Interview by Mahala Ashley