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September 7, 2016updated 29 Jul 2021 10:50am

Over 135,000 Londoners signed a petition to save Fabric – then just three councillors decided to close it

By Mark Wilding

Fabric has closed. The decision came shortly after 1am on Wednesday, following a hearing that lasted nearly seven hours, in which included highly charged testimony from both sides.

The hearing occasionally felt like it was descending into satire. At one point, serious discussion was devoted to whether reducing the “beats per minute” of the music played at the club might help reduce drug use.

In the end, the verdict was announced and it was the wrong one. Fabric has closed, and London is the worse for it.

There are many reasons to be dismayed about the decision. First, the loss of a venue which means so much to so many and is known around the world for the strength of its music policy and its reputation as a beacon of London club culture. To many, Fabric is more than just a nightclub. It is a record label, a community, and a name synonymous with underground electronic music. It will not be easily replaced.

There are also much wider implications. The decision to close Fabric illustrates a profound gap between many of London’s residents and the people who make the decisions which govern their lives. Fabric has fallen victim to a licensing system which hands total control over late-night venues to those who comprehensively fail to understand their worth. Decisions are made by local councillors who are overwhelmingly drawn from a demographic that neither visits nightclubs nor understands their importance.

Fabric can appeal the council’s decision. Perhaps it will reopen. But this was always about more than one club. Recent weeks have seen the closure of Dance Tunnel, Shapes, and Passing Clouds. Look only a little further back and we’ve seen the loss of institutions such as Plastic People, Madame JoJo’s, and countless others. All closed for different reasons – but their collective loss shows the scale of the battle that must be fought if London’s nightlife is to have any kind of future at all.

In the case of Fabric, much of the debate was about drugs. The Met Police called for a licence review after the tragic deaths of two 18-year-old men in the space of just nine weeks earlier this summer. Fabric’s supporters have pointed to the unfair burden that is placed on nightclubs to deal with the inflow of drugs – a problem that even prisons seem unable to tackle. Despite this, the Met successfully argued that to close Fabric would guard against future drug deaths, despite independent expert testimony which pointed to the contrary.

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Others also proved powerless to intervene. London mayor Sadiq Khan came to power after a campaign in which he claimed to be the candidate who would “save London’s iconic club culture”. He may now be regretting such a bold statement. He has presided over the launch of the night tube and recently began recruiting for a “night czar”. But when it came to Fabric’s fate, he proved powerless. With the decision lying in the hands of Islington Council, Khan was left calling from the sidelines for a “common sense solution”, an appeal which clearly fell on deaf ears.

More compelling was the public outcry. A petition to save Fabric gathered more than 135,000 signatures before the hearing. The campaign secured the support of music industry figures ranging from Annie Mac to the Chemical Brothers and Andy C to Carl Cox. The Royal Albert Hall tweeted in support. An elderly Polish couple who made headlines earlier this year after partying at Fabric until 5am joined the campaign.  Hundreds of people wrote to Islington Council to explain how much Fabric meant to them.

In the end, it counted for nothing. Following a licensing review requested by the Metropolitan Police, the decision to close Fabric was made by just three Islington councillors. They may never understand the value of what we’ve lost.

Mark Wilding tweets as @mark_wilding.

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