Editorial: fabric’s Reopening Conditions Don’t Solve The Problem

fabric logo

Let me put my hands forward and state that I was nothing short of ecstatic when I heard yesterday that fabric had won its latest battle against local officials and was granted permission to reopen. The news is a win for dance music and nightlife culture in London, the United Kingdom and everywhere else, as evidenced by the sheer number of people that signed the #savefabric petition of support and donated money to the #saveourculture fundraiser initially intended to be used for an official appeal by the Islington club.

The club’s license is being reinstated with 32 specific conditions that have been agreed upon by all parties involved and approved by judge Robin McPhee at Highbury Magistrates Court.

The official joint statement, which you can read here, explains the history of how the agreement was reached and delineates the conditions that will need to be enforced as part of the venue’s Zero Tolerance to Drugs policy. Early on, it states that, “Fabric repudiates the online abuse aimed at Committee members and Council staff and will permanently exclude anyone who has been found to be involved,” while going on to specify that “Fabric Life will pay Islington’s costs in these proceedings directly and not from the monies pledged by supporters.”

It then lists some specific conditions to be enforced:

– The use of a new I.D. scanning system on entry to the club
– Enhanced searching procedures and controls
– Covert surveillance within the club
– Life-time bans for anyone found in possession of drugs, whether on entry or within the club
– Life-time bans for anyone trying to buy drugs in the club
– Enhanced monitoring and external auditing for compliance against procedures
– Physical changes to the club, including improved lighting and additional CCTV provision
– A new Security Company
– Persons under 19 years of age shall not be permitted to be on the premises as a customer or guest from 2000 hours on a Friday until 0800 hours on the following Monday or on any day during the hours that the operators promote a Core Club Night.

While fabric’s reopening is surely a victory, the wording of the joint statement sounds too eerily similar to that of plea bargain agreement, rather than one recognizing that the venue should have never been closed in the first place. Sure, while fabric may have been spared from expensive and lengthy legal proceedings, it is now being forced to use its own funds to pay Islington Council’s costs rather than those willingly donated by the club’s patrons and supporters. Further, those who stood alongside fabric and spoke up against the council’s decision to shut down the club could potentially find themselves banned from entering fabric’s doors ever again, an interesting set-back on the basic idea of free speech.

More worrying is the nature of the conditions that will now be put in place and, surely for the club’s sake, enforced vigorously. They clearly state that anyone found in possession of any drugs at point of entry or inside the club will be banned from the venue for life, as will anyone attempting to buy drugs inside fabric’s walls. Harsher searching procedures and the use of covert surveillance inside the venue will ensure that it will be incredibly hard for anyone to enter the club with drugs or to buy them once inside, least not for the huge penalty hanging over their head if caught doing so.

While the argument here is far from being pro-drugs, it leaves me to wonder if club-goers will simply find ways to work around these new rules while still consuming their drug of choice. It is not far-fetched, for example, to imagine ravers taking drugs right before entering the venue, perhaps as they get off the tube or while walking toward the club. The point being made here is the same one that has been repeated in the past when the topic of drug usage in the nightlife world comes up: the solution is not to blanket-ban drug usage or those who consume drugs, but to educate our youth on the effects of drugs and to provide safety measures whenever and wherever possible. We have so often seen illustrious and respected members of out community advocate for drug testing, and calling for solutions that do so in the name of education and safety. Judge McPhee, however, was quoted as saying, “I am satisfied that the council and Fabric pulled together to get a set of workable conditions to prevent drug use,” a statement that is frankly far too disconnected from the reality of nightlife and, as such, ultimately unrealistic.

By reaching an agreement and not going to court, fabric has foregone the chance of setting an important legal precedent which could have safeguarded not only the club’s future but that of any other venue facing similar problems in the years to come.  This isn’t a matter of condemning or condoning drug usage, it’s a matter of providing the true measures that will stop further deaths from happening in the future — the same deaths that brought about fabric’s closure in the first place. The current sanctions and conditions will not prevent club-goers from consuming drugs but will simply force them to take them earlier in the night or to get a little more clever so they do not get caught bringing them inside the club.

In fact some, including myself, argue that these conditions set a precedent that could be taking London’s nightlife a few steps back rather than forward. Very strict search procedures, covert surveillance, increased CCTV system and blanket bans will now be standard operating procedure in the biggest and most known nightclub in London. These conditions have been essentially labeled as a standard for others to follow, and that kind of statement has serious repercussions for nightlife as a whole.

For society to make progress on the subject of drug usage it needs to stop believing that Zero Tolerance policies work. They do not. We have seen it in a true large scale with America’s War On Drugs, and we see it confirmed every day on the streets of Amsterdam. Plenty of studies have supported the idea that decriminalizing drugs in the UK would result in less people consuming them, and The Times recently broke new ground declaring itself in favor of treating drug use and possession as a health issue rather than a crime. The policing at Glastonbury, UK’s biggest music festival, has often been described as “friendly”, with the Avon and Somerset force following a “policing by consent” policy. Interestingly enough, Glastonbury rarely sees drug-related deaths and reported improved crime and drug-related offenses for 2015, with a drastic fall from the year before. And how about Portugal’s excellent results following 15 years of drug decriminalization?

I could go on listing and citing evidence to this regard but I think the point is clear: fabric’s reopening is surely a win, but it’s one marred by a nonsensical Zero Tolerance approach that is unrealistic and unworkable. It’s imperative to not lose sight of why the club was shut down in the first place, a loss of life that is preventable with education and safety, rather than with the paranoia created through stricter searches, covert surveillance and blanket bans.

The battle has been won but the war to #saveourculture is far from over.

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Fight With fabric: Join the Fundraising Campaign to Save the Club

Fabric Campaign

London’s fabric is acting on their promise to fight to re-open the venue, launching an official campaign to raise money for its appeal against Islington Council’s decision to revoke their license.

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Remembering fabric: 10 of Our Favorite Live Set Recordings from fabric London

Sasha playing Room 1 at fabric in on the 21st of June 2003

Sasha playing Room 1 at fabric in on the 21st of June 2003

Less than 24 hours after the dance music community learned of fabric London’s forced closure, I choose to begin remembering the greatness of the iconic London venue through what it did best: its music.

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Music Monday: Listen to the 12hr fabric Takeover of Rinse FM ft. Ricardo Villalobos, Marcel Dettmann, Nina Kraviz & More


Start your week proper with an entire 12 hours of top-tier underground house and techno from some of the biggest names in the international touring circuit.

This past Saturday, 3rd of September, fabric London took over Rinse FM for 12 hours as part of the current #savefabric initiative to save the club from closure. The venue is facing an official review of its license by the local Islington Council and Metropolitan Police as a result of two overdose deaths that prompted local officials to close the club indefinitely pending the aforementioned incoming review. Recently, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has weighed in with an official statement replying to the #savefabric petition that has been doing the rounds to urge him to intervene in ensuring the club isn’t permanently shut down.

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan Responded to the #savefabric Petition

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Sadiq Khan, London’s recently appointed Mayor, has responded to the petition to save fabric following the club’s recent temporary license suspension.

Released on today, the statement comes on the heels of his August 17th tweet, in which Khan pressed on the Met Police and Islington Council “to find an approach that protects clubbers’ safety and the future of the club.”

Following the over 90,000 signatures on the petition, Khan’s latest statement is far lengthier but once again stresses his commitment to appoint a Night Czar for the city all the while pressing officials involved to save fabric’s present situation by finding a “common sense solution.”

The full statement reads:

Thank you for writing to me about the future of Fabric and London’s night time economy.

London’s iconic clubs are an essential part of our cultural landscape. As Mayor, I’m determined to do more to protect them, as well as our theatres, live music venues, artists workspaces, historic buildings and pubs. It is so important that people are able to enjoy a fun and safe night out in the capital.

As part of our wider plan to support the night time economy, I will appoint a Night Czar to lead this work by bringing together key stakeholders including club and venue owners, planning and licensing authorities, the Metropolitan Police and members of the public. No single organisation or public body can solve these problems alone – we all need to work together to ensure London thrives as a 24-hour city, in a way that is safe and enjoyable for everyone.

I am committed to using the influence of my office to overcome the numerous challenges facing the night time economy. However, it is important to note that City Hall does not have the power to intervene in licensing cases like the current situation with Fabric.

Clubbing needs to be safe. There have been two tragic deaths at Fabric over recent months and there are clearly issues that need addressing.

Fabric, the Metropolitan Police and Islington will of course have to take real action to protect the safety of everyone who enjoys a night out at the club.

My team have spoken to all involved in the current situation and I am urging them to find a common sense solution that ensures the club remains open while protecting the safety of those who want to enjoy London’s clubbing scene.

I welcome your call for us all to work together – City Hall, London’s music venues, local authorities, the police and others – to make our clubs safer while also protecting our night time economy.

Best wishes,

Sadiq Khan
Mayor of London

Sign the petition here.

Make Your Voice Heard and #savefabric From Closure!

Save Fabric banner

fabric is facing an upcoming license review on September 6th that could potentially close the venue for good.  The club is now asking its patrons and music fans from all over the world to join the #savefabric campaign by signing a petition to keep the club open.

The London nightlife institution could be closing down for good after its license was suspended by the local council in liaison with the Metropolitan police following the recent death of two clubbers from drug overdoses. The situation has sparked international attention, with artists, record labels and other venues lending their voice to save the club and asking the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to step in to assist.

Mr. Khan has called for a solution that both saves the venue and safeguards patrons, going a step further by launching a hiring campaign for the first ever Night Czar in London that will be charged with shaping London’s future as a 24-hour city.

Islington Council will hold a scheduled review of the club’s license on September 6th, where both councillors and authorities will forward their arguments and push for one of three solutions: a change of license, a suspension of license or even closure.

In an effort to ensure that the club does not shut down, the venue is encouraging supporters to sign a petition to underline the club’s importance.

You can sign the petition here.

The club released the below full statement on the current situation via its Facebook page: