Anyone who moved to London after hearing Sadiq Khan’s
blatant lies claims of turning the place into a “24-hour city” must be weeping into their avocado on toast now. Okay, we’ve got the night tube (which is great for ferrying you from illegal rave to unlicensed party), but we all know that around 50% of the nightclubs have vanished in about the past seven years.
It’s not looking great. Hackney council have now imposed unprecedented restrictions on new venues, essentially shackling them with an automatic curfew. The council claim the move was to ‘support the needs of residents’, despite the fact that 73% of them were against the whole thing. A Night Czar, Amy Lamé, has been appointed but, let’s face it, she’s yet to do anything even remotely impactful. Clubs are still targeted by councils and developers with all the zeal of an overexcited dog chasing an airborne stick.
Even clubs like Fabric, who have the cultural clout to resist corrupt councils (who’s austerity-hit, ever-dwindling budgets are making them increasingly desperate) and the crooked police hellbent on shutting them down, are still a bit fucked. Once a venue that people would flock to when they wanted to experience a sense of escapism and freedom, Fabric now boasts security that a prison would be proud of.
Thanks to their draconian licensing deal with Islington Council, punters can expect ‘enhanced monitoring’, ‘improved lighting’, ‘additional CCTV provision’ and ‘covert surveillance’. I’m sorry, but the only thing missing is garish orange jumpsuits and an old-fashioned waterboarding. Okay, that’s a bit OTT, but it’s not exactly a shining example of an environment to abandon your inhibitions and get lost in music, is it?
Where do we go from here? Situated in a repurposed old car mechanic’s depot in the industrial heartland of Tottenham, The Cause is a multi-functional community project. It opened in April this year, and has become somewhat of a neighbourhood hub since: You can get a haircut, bring your own food to be BBQ’d, browse a house plant sale or rent a workspace by day.
By night though, this is a sick 400-cap club: All the ingredients to create a genuine underground atmosphere (an unpretentious and welcoming attitude, an authentic post-industrial setting, chilled out security, no corporate branding, a custom-built system and a clientele who aren’t all-consumed by Instagram culture) can be found at The Cause.
They have a license until 5am (not an easy feat in London right now) and they are regularly throwing 16-hour parties — like their Day & Night Block Party with the likes of Brawther & DJ Pierre headlining. The whole operation is fundraising for charities: C.A.L.M.,Mind in Haringey, local community garden Grow Tottenham and Help Musicians UK. The aim is to net them £25,000 in the first year.
"... this club exists for the right reasons. With that comes a certain mentality, and you can feel that on the dancefloor"
I sat down with a founder of The Cause, Stuart Glen, outside the venue for a chat about this venture. For reasons unknown to DJ Mag, he wanted to go by the name of Fat Shit and be pictured (above) in his “favourite outfit”. “I just like finding spaces and I found this and wanted to have a party,” he said, periodically picking up and stroking his chihuahua.
“I've been running parties. You know The London Loft Party? It’s kind of a nomadic under-the-radar type event. We move around various different locations and it’s a bit of a headache finding spaces, so I’ve been looking for a permanent spot for a while. I found this and thought it would make a cool club.”
What’s been the most stressful thing about the past few months? “I don’t know... It's all stressful. When I took the place on it didn’t have a license, it’s stressful knowing you’ve spent all this money and you might not have a license,” he says. “It's a risk because I can’t really stop the ride. That’s the way it feels; I can’t slow down. I just have to keep going. I don’t sleep much more than four or five hours a night.
“I need to make the most out of it. I'm a bit of a maniac, and I might keep on taking more spaces on. I'm working on another space [shows picture on his phone], you can't mention where that is, but you can say that I've got another space in the pipeline. The Cause is an ever-expanding beast and I'm obviously just addicted.”
Why choose to use this as a vehicle for generating money for these charities? “I reached out to them because there was a big link between dance music and poor mental health,” Fat Shit explains. “We are here for an 18-month lease and I wanted to try and provide a model where we could take the space and do something good in that time.
“I wanted to create a model where I could raise money for charities who were linked in with dance music and show it to developers, so they could see that putting parties on is actually a good thing.” Could this be a new approach rolled out across London? “Potentially, but I don’t think there are that many people that would do it, because it's a bit stupid to be perfectly honest,” he chuckled. “If you stacked everything into a spreadsheet and costed everyone’s hours it wouldn't really stack up.”
The Cause is booking big names, but it doesn’t necessarily need that to keep the club busy. It’s largely nurturing homegrown talent and sticking to its roots. “Because it’s so community-driven it’s easy to get my mates down here to see me play,”RigMouse, a local house DJ who regularly plays in the club,” told DJ Mag. “That’s why I feel more comfortable DJing here and enjoy venues like this more than the bigger ones.”
Xavier, a local techno DJ and producer booked to play at The Cause next month, is on the same page. “It is genuinely the underground,” he says. “It gives the idea that this club exists for the right reasons. With that comes a certain mentality, and you can feel that on the dancefloor — it’s all about psychology.”
Frederick Sugden, founder of nearby community radio station 199radio, thinks DIY clubs are what Tottenham needs. “It’s an amazing venue run by a group of super motivated people. A real example of how to do something in a DIY sense, from the grassroots up, but still with high production values. They've been really keen to collaborate with us, inviting us for showcases and booking local acts."
Maybe London could use community conscious clubs like this to show the non-clubbing public (and, more importantly, developers, councils and police) that clubbing is about so much more than they might think. Clubbing culture is not about getting on it and moving your sweaty extremities in time to a thumping beat for hours on end or even listening to a set that temporarily detaches you from Earth. It’s about more than looking at your iPhone's built-in pedometer to find that you’ve done 35,000 steps around a small dark room.
Sure, that’s all part of it. But it’s mainly about spiritual self-transcendence through the medium of music. But also transcendence through feeling part of something bigger, something that elevates your psychological state beyond the mundane. Like people attending a football match, a church or a political rally, clubbing is about community. And this particular community possesses a potent power to change society for the better.
A club like The Cause — serving the community, enacting real social change and showcasing the true nature of UK clubbing culture — might be just what London needs to challenge some stereotypes amongst legislators and developers right now. After all, they hold our culture’s destiny in their hands.
To learn more about The Cause head to their website.