At the moment, it seems like every month there's another established nightclub under threat. The Arches in Glasgow has just closed down (see our feature on its heritage on page 69), and in the past two years, London — where DJ Mag HQ is — has lost ten clubs.
Club Colosseum, the Vibe Bar, Plastic People, Madama JoJo's, Crucifix Lane, Hidden, Cable, Area, Publik and the 12 Bar Club have all bitten the dust. All but three of these had capacities of over a thousand people. The two most famous clubs in London, Fabric and Ministry, have also been under threat in the past year. And now Club 414 in Brixton faces closure.
What the hell is going on? It's not as if the ten that have already shut in London in the past couple of years is just natural wastage, and a similar amount of clubs are springing up in their place. Less venues means more pressure on existing ones, and far less options for clubbers to go to. The UK dance music industry is a multi-million-pound industry, feted the world over for its innovation and creativity.
The UK has been majorly influential in pioneering our global scene, but now the UK's clubs are being squeezed more than most other countries on earth. How is creativity and entertainment supposed to flourish if the very places that incubate the scene are closing or having ludicrous restrictions placed upon them?
This issue, DJ Mag is launching our #SaveOurClubs campaign. We're going to be working with the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) and others to try to help stick up for nightclubs under pressure from the authorities.
“Clubs have been facing an increasing raft of issues and regulatory impositions,” Alan D Miller from the NTIA tells DJ Mag. “From demands for extra security to biometrics, CCTV and even sometimes breathalysers, there has been a wrong-minded equating of night-time industry with 'crime' and 'anti-social behaviour'. Yet all the records show that serious crime has decreased in the last ten years, with Brits and visitors enjoying the cultural experience of being out in various ways.” Too often, venues are blamed whenever there is law-breaking within their vicinity.
“Local councils in the UK have adopted an approach that only looks at presumed negatives,” says Alan Miller. “However, the enormous benefits of the night-time economy — from employment to transforming urban landscapes — gets ignored. Even the negatives are highly dubious and overblown: crime stats that dominate policing today are often based on mobile phone losses, creating so-called 'spikes' in crime around venues. Senior officers are then charged with 'reducing the stats'.
The punishing and penalising of clubs to meet short term 'targets' to reduce dubious crime stats annually or due to the pressure of resources facing police or councils is unacceptable.” With police resources being cut, it's all too easy for police to think that the best way to reduce 3am call-outs is to stop 3am licenses. However, if the authorities think that young people are just going to go home at midnight at the weekend, they are sorely mistaken. Dance culture grew out of the acid house generation, and after tons of unlicensed parties in warehouses and in fields, most of the action moved into clubs.
Establishments like the Hacienda, Ministry Of Sound, Turnmills, The Arches, The End, Cream, Fabric, Digital and so many more have helped shape the cultural landscape as we know it today. “It is only with UK clubs that UK music artists, DJs and producers can gain international fame and do so well around the world, and we are cutting off the production line for talent as well as the ecosystem for labels, management and affiliated businesses,” points out Alan Miller of the NTIA.
So what can be done? With our #SaveOurClubs campaign, we'll be helping to highlight what you can do to keep your local favourite dance clubs open and firing. Meanwhile, you could join the NTIA — www.ntia.co.uk — and write to your local MP or councillor with any concerns you have. After all, those people are elected, and supposed to serve their constituents. “A disproportionate amount of young people are employed in clubs, and they shape the future inside them and go on to change the world,” says Alan Miller.
“We can Save Our Clubs by simply letting them get on — like banks, shops and haulage companies do — without being punished any and every time there is any incident.”
We are starting this up in the UK but the issue is worldwide as evidenced by recent threats to Zouk Singapore, Hugo's Bar in Sydney and so on.
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