Can London nightlife be saved? Well, after a spirited discussion held on the Fabric dancefloor yesterday streamed by Boiler Room in association with Time Out, the jury is still out.
Seven panellists including Fabric co-founder Cameron Leslie responded to the club’s closure earlier this month following the death of two teenagers at the club. Leslie was joined by DJs Goldie and Artwork, Alex Benson (Bloc), Dan Beaumont (Dalston Superstore), Emily Thornberry, MP Islington South and Amsterdam’s night mayor, aka the nachtburgemeester, Mirik Milan.
Fabric also released a transparency statement yesterday, an in-depth document outlining recommended various changes to licensing laws. If their upcoming appeal fails, Fabric pledges to plough all money raised – the total currently stands at £141,000 – into other clubs facing a similar struggle.
The panel agreed on most points. No one refuted the immense cultural impact that losing an institution like Fabric will have on London. Everyone, including Thornberry, agreed that local ward councillors should not be solely responsible for licensing decisions.
‘Ultimately, it was three councillors who made the decision, it’s amazing that all this cultural heritage rests in the hands of three people,’ said Dan Beaumont, who runs Dalston Superstore. ‘There must be a London plan. Who is going to invest in the next great club in London?'
Amsterdam night mayor Milan – a former club promoter – expressed his shock that a club with such an international reputation hadn’t been an integral part of London’s international strategy. He has been key in overhauling the Dutch city's approach to clubbing and has implemented anonymous drug testing, 24-hour licences and certain zones to focus on the arts with large multi-purpose buildings that operate as cafés, restaurants, art galleries and clubs.
The only moment of real tension erupted when Cameron Leslie dismissed the three councillors who made the ruling as ‘a butcher, baker and candlestick maker’. The Islington South MP cut in with ‘I’m not having that. Councillors have to be representative of all the people and represent all generations and backgrounds.’ At which point Goldie, who has played at Fabric a mighty 110 times, said: ‘My dear, I don’t think people on that panel have an inkling about clubbing.’
One hopeful sign for the club’s future came from Emily Thornberry who appeared certain that Fabric will re-open, pointedly asking Leslie to work with Islington teens when rather than if the club returns. 'It’s not the end,' she said. 'I think people can step back from their mistakes.'
Amsterdam Night Mayor Mirik Milan offered valuable, practical suggestions for London's future Night Czar to cultivate a flourishing night economy in London, including the promotion of how clubs contribute to culture. In a somewhat cruel coincidence, the day after Islington Council ruled to revoke Fabric’s licence, two new venues opened in Amsterdam, one with a 24-hour licence, one open until 8am. ‘But this didn’t happen overnight,’ he said. ‘It took us years to explain the value of nightlife and this is the challenge that London will have.’
Fabric's appeal will be heard in the next few weeks at a magistrates court. The date has not yet been announced.