Every October, Fabric celebrated its birthday by staying open for around 30 straight hours, from Friday through to Sunday. These were heady scenes. To turn up on a Sunday afternoon, at a club that had been ripening slowly – marinating in its own rave juices, if you will – was a strange, bewildering and brilliant joy. Aside from the surreal nature of walking into a club peaking at 3pm, what was notable about those weekenders was the crowds – more seasoned, more veteran. Older, in short, than a regular Fabric crowd.
I mention the birthday weekenders for two reasons. Firstly, I'm in shock today that we will almost certainly never see another one again. But I mention it mainly because those older crowds were a total one-off. What made Fabric such an important London institution was that, the rest of the time, it only ever existed to make young people happy.
It would be wrong to react to last night’s shock decision to revoke the club’s licence by wallowing in nostalgia. The real kicker isn’t that those memories have ended – it’s that a future generation of Londoners will never get to make such memories of their own.
Fabric mattered because, for so many people, it was their first experience of what a proper nightclub should be. It marked the point at which many of us graduated from the poor soundsystems, rude doorstaff, shonky décor and general bad vibes of the provincial clubs of our teens to really understanding what made a superclub super.
Why Fabric? What made this venue, and not others, the gateway club of choice? That’s simple: it was because Fabric never ever stopped appealing to young people. That is an exceptionally proud boast. Everywhere you look, from the degrading of BBC3 to the adoption of Topshop and Bieber by the adult mainstream, there are fewer and fewer things that young people can truly claim as their own any more.
Clubbing certainly hasn’t been immune from this shift. In the last five years, clubs have been chasing the grey pound like never before. And who can blame them? Forty-somethings still want to have fun, they have money to spend and memories of Turnmills circa ’94 to rekindle. Best of all for venues, they're far less likely to overdose on drugs, unlike their early twenties counterparts.
In contrast, what made Fabric so incredibly precious was that it never sold out and made life easy for itself by switching demographics.
Its Friday programming in particular never wavered from the fact that all kids, at some point in their lives, want to surf a giddy, messed-up rollercoaster made of bass-driven lunacy. Jungle, dubstep and drum’n’ bass never stopped being part of Fabric’s offering, to the gleeful delight of millions of adolescents aching to shake a leg. It’s also worth noting that, while many venues battled to put on grime artists – in the wake of controversial risk-assesment form 696 – Fabric never struggled to put on local grime heroes like Wiley, Jammer, Logan Sama and more – week in, week out.
For so many years, Fabric took the huge risk of appealing predominantly to young people. And ultimately, that dedication to youth may have been its downfall.
The drug-related deaths of two teenagers at the club this year was unarguably tragic. It was these deaths that ultimately led to the club’s licence being revoked. Yet, as Fabric argued so strongly in its defence, shutting Fabric means authorities like the police will lose a valuable link to young clubbers. A means of communicating, engaging, listening and teaching on a level that doesn’t hark back to the 1950s.
When it opened, Fabric was a dream club. It even featured on ‘Tomorrow’s World’, thanks to its pioneering vibrating dancefloor in Room 1. We all know it’s not 1999 any more – and a tamer, poorer, less decadent city has learned to spend less, take less and go home earlier. But that doesn’t mean we still don’t want dream clubs to exist. With Fabric gone, it's hard to fathom how a future generation will learn what clubbing is any more – let alone the incredible joy of raving sweatily at 3pm on a Sunday – without a dream club to show them the way.