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Is The Closure Of Fabric Another Nail In The Coffin For London's Creative Community?

19/09/2016 11:24

The recent news that Islington Council has shut down the iconic London night club Fabric has sparked outrage and disbelief amongst music fans, campaigners and politicians alike. Post Brexit, I don't think I have seen such an outpouring of anger and grief on my social feeds.

As Managing Director of a digital marketing agency, and founder of a London-based electronic music record label, I am seriously concerned for the future of London's creative community. Over the past decade we have lost nearly 50 percent of the capital's club spaces and increasingly areas of the city where the young, freshly-graduated creative community live and work. Shoreditch, Dalston, Hackney Wick and King's Cross have all been invaded by new build flats, office blocks and men in suits.

The decision to revoke Fabric's licence was made on the basis of two drug related deaths at the club earlier this summer, and staff's inability to "stop people buying and taking illegal drugs on its premises". To me the closure represents an uneducated view on drugs. No doubt tragic incidents, but definitely not isolated incidents. Unfortunately, young (and older) people suffer drug induced deaths every single day in Britain, that being on the streets, in private homes or at clubs. The reasoning for the closure is obviously much more complex than drug use alone.

Rising housing prices, budget cuts and Post-Brexit economic concerns puts London councils under massive financial pressure - and the answer seems to be gentrification and commercialisation. Of course, it is entirely necessary that local councils and politicians are engaged in encouraging investment into London, but at what cost?

In response to rising rents and the city's attitudes to clubs and the places where creative people go to express themselves, many young people involved in the creative arts have moved to culture-rich cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam - cities that embrace the underground creative community. If we don't start taking action, the city we love is in danger of 'cleansing itself' of the people and places that have helped to build its reputation as a global creative hub. We are at risk of becoming just another "boring big city".

As pointed out by London's Mayor Sadiq Khan, the issues faced by Fabric and many of the city's other culture venues indicates a wider problem of how to protect the night-time economy. Thus maintaining London's thriving creative community has to be a strategic initiative driven at the very highest level, and is therefore a matter for public policy.

The Mayor's promise to appoint a 'Night Czar' to protect and represent London's night-time culture and industry is definitely a step in the right direction, but it is paramount that such a role comes with real power - influence alone won't be enough. The role needs the resources, access and authority to bring together key stakeholders, including club and venue owners, local authorities, the Metropolitan Police and the public. Interviews are taking place next week and I hope along with the announcement of who will be London's brand new 'Night Czar', comes the real authority necessary to make a difference.

London's creative industry has a responsibility as well. We have to build new spaces for young creatives to develop and express themselves - but also do everything in our power to maintain existing creative hubs. There is enough Starbucks', Superdrugs' and Tesco's - let's make sure our clubs, theatres, arts and cultural spaces don't turn into just another one of these. We have to raise our voices and make sure policy makers hear us.

I also suggest we look to our more enlightened European neighbours for inspiration. In stark contrast to the decision taken on Fabric, a German court has recently ruled that one of Berlin's most famous nightclubs, Berghain, produces work of cultural significance and should be taxed at a lower rate. Recognising Berghain as a place of cultural value clearly demonstrates Germany's more progressive and sympathetic approach to clubs and the places where the young, creative community express themselves.

If we, the policymakers and the creative industry alike, don't take action I am worried the closure of Fabric will be just another nail in the coffin for London's creative people and the industry they inhabit.

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