Fabric’s Back: Let’s Push Things Forward

Niall Flynn /
Nov 21, 2016 / Opinion

Culture and common sense have prevailed. Fabric will reopen.

Following a string of appeal hearings, the club, the town council and police have reached an agreement that will see the implementation of stricter licensing conditions. That’s a funny image, isn’t it, the club, council and police in a room together, discussing the long and complex relationship that dance music has with recreational drug use. It’s like the opening of a joke. ‘A club owner, a councillor and a policeman walk into a bar. Ouch!’ Get it? They walked into a bar. Like a metal bar. None of them saw it coming, because they were all off their nuts after taking a couple of poppers during a Groove Armada set. Can one of them be Irish?

I digress. The fact is that Fabric’s back, and that’s a good thing. Why? Because Fabric is – and forever will be – a staple of the UK music scene. Though it’s a pale comparison of the electronic mecca it personified during its dizzy heyday, it represents something incredibly important to a hell of a lot of people. To take it away seemed like regression, reinforcing the notion of an establishment out of touch with its country’s culture. It was gun-ho censorship authorised by trigger-happy forces, robbing the club’s celebrators of an opportunity for debate and compromise. Now, seemingly, we have that – though they did take their time about it. Regardless of where you sit where the decriminalisation of drug-taking debate is concerned, Fabric’s reopening represents a victory for dialogue and the celebration of a nation’s cultural history.

The new licensing rules will see those under the age of 19 unable to attend main events, as well as heightened CCTV, ID scanning and lifetime bans for anyone caught with – or asking for – drugs. A review of the clubbing industry’s approach to drug culture has been long overdue. When Fabric was closed in September by the local town council, it was following the drug-related deaths of two 18 year-old on its premises. Before that, the historic entanglement of dance music and drug-taking was a “push it under the carpet” topic. Everyone knew what was going on, but nobody wanted to be the person to step up and directly address it. Political forces would rather play dumb, police saw it as too messy, while the clubs were never going to be the ones to pipe up on the subject. When Islington Council were force to act, their response mirrored the historic approach: sweep it under the carpet, again.

Stamp. Fabric’s closed. Nobody takes drugs anymore. Society is pure. Move along, now. Nothing to see here. What’s a drug?

Thus, with the initial cause of action fresh in the mind, to find ourselves reacting to the announcement of Fabric’s reopening two months later is a positive conclusion. It demonstrates a willingness to sit down and talk about a subject that has spectacularly failed to inspire conversation up until now. However, to think of Fabric and its brand new licensing rules as the end of an awkward saga would be another huge leap backwards. For this to have any real weighting, it should be seen as the beginning of a culture of openness and conversation. Will the stricter rules stop people taking drugs at Fabric? Somehow, I doubt it. Will sitting down at the table with a willingness to listen stop people taking drugs at Fabric? No. People aren’t going to stop taking drugs at Fabric. Sorry. They just aren’t. But, sitting down at the table with a willingness to listen might stop people taking drugs ignorantly and dangerously. It might stop people dying.

An objective, mature and educated approach is what is needed when it comes to clubs and drugs. To reduce the response to “young people are bad and we must shut their clubs” will solve nothing. To increase sanctions but continue to ignore the realities will solve nothing. To open the conversation only to shut it off again at the first glimpse of convenience will – believe it or not – solve nothing. The success of this specific example of inter-demographical dialogue should be used a platform for future progress. Fabric is back, but this is only the beginning. This is an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted.

Words by Niall Flynn

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