Chester Cornford: First the Arches, now Fabric - clubland needs to organise, and quick

Following the closure of London club Fabric earlier this month, Chester Cornford says the club scene must politicise itself to fight off closures

THE closure of Fabric was inevitable. In the same way that the licensing board and Police Scotland hounded the Arches to a premature end, external forces were working away at the Islington venue from the off.

This is not news. Since the beginning of underground dance culture, there have always been those opposed to it for various reasons. Strict opponents of drug use, those against any cultural forms that pose a threat to the establishment, and developers, eager to shut down clubs for prime building opportunity. 

The Hacienda, legendary across the world, is now a luxury block of flats.

The closure of UK clubs confirms a paradox within the communities that use them. The outpouring of grief and anger comes alongside a sense of apathy from club goers. 

Operation Lenor, with such tact naming, was singular in its purpose. The closure of Fabric has been a long desired and long planned occasion. A decision that is in part due to our archaic drug laws, but also a lack of understanding of club culture from those who are outside it; and the result of austerity and cutting back of budgets for policing, councils, culture and arts, and public services.

Yet, what did we do? We stood back until the last possible minute. The closure of UK clubs confirms a paradox within the communities that use them. The outpouring of grief and anger comes alongside a sense of apathy from club goers. 

For many, underground club culture provides a hedonistic escapism from the bitterness of the outside world. When these very same venues come under threat, escapism fails.

No longer can clubbers ignore the politics of their localities, nationalities and of the world. Poor turnout amongst 18-25s and a lack of participation and awareness needs to be challenged. Separating club culture from politics leads to a state of affairs where the hegemony between them is dominated by an oppressive and powerful force.

Club land needs to politicise and organise. While there are some stand out groups, citing Optimo and Philanthrobeats locally, the separation of politics and parties has been instrumental in the downfall of clubs across our cities. 

For many, underground club culture provides a hedonistic escapism from the bitterness of the outside world. When these very same venues come under threat, escapism fails.

Politicised parties and clubs can help encourage participation among a generation who fail to turn up in influential numbers. The general unwillingness to think critically about clubbing and to be active in our democracy means club goers are weakened. When those who seek to destroy club culture are unchallenged, their goals are only easier to achieve.

Mass-mobilisation and organisation can change that. Over 150,000 people signed the petition to save Fabric. While this effort may now seem futile, it helped to show those outside of underground club culture the strength of its support. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan promised to save London's nightlife. While he says Fabric is out of his hands, pressure on him to keep his vow could lead to political support in Fabric's favour, and help stop decisions to close clubs on tangible licensing acts happening again.

Club communities provide an excellent framework for politicisation and organisation. Locally, Optimo have shown how club nights can set the agenda; their recent rave against racism provided a message of unity and tolerance in a Brexit context. 

More and more nights and labels are arguing against for the increased participation and acknowledgement of underrepresented groups in dance music. Discwoman is a particularly key inspiration.

The closure of Fabric showed how so many people across the country, many who had never been inside its walls, could come together and make a stand.

As most dancefloors are both tight-knit and open communities, it should not be hard for our voices to be heard. The closure of Fabric showed how so many people across the country, many who had never been inside its walls, could come together and make a stand.

However, this stand was not enough. Yet, we can move on from this. The momentum must be used. We cannot allow club goers to return to a state of apathy. We must continue the anger over the closure of our clubs, and we must continue and increase our efforts to make the case for harm reduction, upheaval of our drug laws, and more toleration of Britain's dying night time economy.

But where do we start? Firstly, zines, blogs and music sites must continue to make the case for night-time industries and clubs. They must challenge decisions made by licensing boards, and local and national government. 

Petitions are a good start, but more active protests in the forms of demonstrations and protests help make our voices heard to the wider community. Lobby local MPs to take up the cause of your clubs, and to ask for the reassurance that they will look out for local venues. 

Get involved with the Nightlife Matters campaign. Encourage people who are alien to club culture to experience it for themselves.

But, more importantly, we must strive to tackle our own internal problems. Too many people see a party as just a party. Tragically, the closing of our best clubs may be the only thing that changes that; and it may just be too late.

Picture courtesy of Nick Mehlert

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