fabric Closure: A Political Attack on Youth Culture
Words by Jasper Morvaridi
“It seems like now what we are saying is, all the things that happen in society... and everywhere else are irrelevant and we are going to hold fabric responsible for the issues in society. It’s not acceptable - it’s not acceptable to the NTIA, it’s not acceptable to the British public. We’ve had 150,000 people already sign a petition, we’re going to call on people to contribute funds to get involved and participate in a national grassroots movement, to lobby their MPs and councils and say this is enough; enough is enough.”
Alan Miller, Chairman of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA).
Last night the local council of Islington forced fabric to close permanently, after its license was revoked due to the drug-related deaths of two 18-year-olds, Ryan Browne and Jack Crossley. Among the reasons for closure were statements such as “people entering the club were inadequately searched” and that “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”. While the two deaths are undoubtedly tragic, such claims are an insult to the institution and an attack on a club at the core of London nightlife, and go far deeper than these unfortunate deaths.
The repercussions of such a crackdown on fabric are far bigger and far worse than it may initially seem. Put next to the recent closures of Passing Clouds, Dance Tunnel, Plastic People and Shapes, it’s easy to see that London continues to be sanitised at the hands of a few, from the top down. Since the start of summer, these four cult-status late licence venues have been shut down without a care for their local or artistic significance. This is a brazen attempt to vilify electronic music, in order to pull headlines that suggest drug use is being tackled yet further attack UK youth culture. It is a method of clearing the way for investors to sterilise the city. Every day we are seeing artistry being stifled by a ruling elite of property developers and councils that care more about economic capital than cultural capital - just this week a community of artists in Hackney Wick were forcibly evicted to make way for property development.
This is a situation infuriatingly reminiscent of Major’s 1994 Criminal Justice Act, which attempted to force an end to rave culture. A continuous attack on the UK’s youth has been in motion since the 1990s; where before it was backed by a purely moral agenda in an attempt to control a blossoming movement of people dancing in fields to ‘repetitive beats’, this is a direct attack on a vital cultural sector for corporate gain, a statement to show who runs this city. Sadiq Khan’s call for a part-time ‘Night Czar’ and celebrations surrounding the grand opening of the night-tube are political face-saving moves that are all but in vain, the latter especially tinged with bitter irony given the current state and probable future of London’s nightlife. Government legislation in 1994 was to turn to (short term) ruin as it brought about mass protests, demonstrations and an increase in free parties, receiving national attention. Today’s news about fabric, however, is a sly move from the state that must be opposed.
What’s both shocking yet unsurprising about the revelations surrounding fabric is that the roots of its closure can be traced directly to Tory austerity measures. Documents obtained by The Independent via a Freedom of Information request suggest the Met police’s clampdown of fabric, manifested in the smugly titled ‘Operation Lenor’, came as the result of a ‘long pre-planned event, orchestrated by a cash-strapped council, using the police as pawns and drug legislation as a constant, convenient excuse.’ Islington Council has lost half of its funding since 2010, as have the Islington police, partly funded by the council. When our government continues to roll back public funding and expenditure to make way for corporate investment, tragedies like the closing of fabric happen. It is clear that this has very little to do with drug-use or door policy. As little as eight months ago, a judge tested the systems in place at the club and praised it as a ‘beacon of best practice’. fabric went beyond expectations to ensure that door policy and intervention was stringent, creating a safer environment for every club-goer. Retrospectively, this sudden change in rhetoric was evidently an attempt to support the council and governments end-goals.
What’s more, drug use at fabric was everything but a localised problem. To quote Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington, “we must guard against the assumption that dangerous drug use would cease simply if we were to close a nightclub like fabric”. The interplay between drugs and club culture extends far beyond the metropolis of London, and dates further back than 1999, when the institution first opened its doors. Continually attacking club after club is a maddeningly futile and misguided approach to ending drug-related deaths. This, paired with a dated and equally misguided governmental drugs policy, will do nothing to change the structural issues of substance abuse and dependency. fabric isn't the problem; dancing isn't the problem; euphoria isn't the problem! There's only one way to stop people taking dodgy drugs in high doses and that's to make sure their drugs aren't dodgy - to regulate, educate and test on-site, as pioneered at The Warehouse Project in Manchester following a similar situation of drug-related deaths in 2013.
My first experience of fabric, like many, dates back to long before I was legally allowed to enter the institution itself. The extensive Fabric and FabricLive mix series offered both a glimpse of the club and more importantly, an education. An education musically, an education of DJ and club culture and an education into the art of mixing (which for a 14 year old bedroom DJ meant a lot). These CDs were just one element of fabric’s weight, each telling a unique and personal story that went far beyond a simple mix. They were a doorway into a world of musical influence and memories, and much like the nightclub, a way of coming together and uniting. Likewise DJs, artists and clubgoers alike have taken to social media to share their memories of fabric, and frustration at the current events. Its impact on culture and electronic music is colossal, hence its position at the core of London nightlife for so many years. It was a venue that truly brought people together - no matter their nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, race or gender. It doesn’t matter where or how you prefer to party because, in the words of Bradley Zero, “fabric reigns atop the food chain in our ecosystem. We all need it, whether we prefer a warehouse rave or a pool hall”.
That’s why today we need to come together, unite and oppose such a ruthless, heartless, government ploy against UK nightlife. Alan Miller’s statement was an immediate reaction to the council’s anti-drug decision, late last night. Now, following the release of ‘Operation Lenor’, it bears even more significance. For far too long there has been a top-down oppression of youth culture in the UK. We need a grassroots movement to save fabric and UK nightlife.
See FACT's list of ways to protest the closure here.
Read fabric's statement on the closure in full here.