Opinion

Fabric Closure Overshadows Night Tube Celebrations

By Alan Miller Last edited 16 months ago

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Fabric Closure Overshadows Night Tube Celebrations

Alan Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association says the closure of Fabric nightclub, while its licence is reviewed, goes against everything the night tube is supposed to celebrate.

I have a terrible feeling in my stomach.

The feeling is because on the day we should be celebrating the first part of the 24-hour tube opening is overshadowed by the nightmare handling of Fabric nightclub.

Fabric is regarded as the gold standard when it comes to drug policy, so why is it being punished? Photo by Danny Seaton.

It is all the more extraordinary because of all of the excellent hard work so many stakeholders from the Met, TFL, London First, the worlds of theatre, universities, the music industry and nightlife have put into understanding the enormous benefits of the night time economy.

Lets just call a spade a spade and have a dose of honesty here: drugs are in Britain. British people and visitors take drugs.

Simple statement, right?  

But if one ponders a little longer it begs a number of questions. How, if with all of the resources and earnest hard work of UK Customs and Excise and national and local police forces, do we still have drugs in Britain?

How come we have prisons — with all their tight security — that are riddled with controlled substances?

Such places are not threatened with closure when there is a tragic fatality. Nor indeed, when someone collapses on our public transport, in a hotel, at a football stadium or a shopping centre. Nor when other crimes are committed in or near those places.

So why do we expect a nightclub — even one with the 'gold standard' of operations that many emulate — to be able to prevent at all times and in every way drugs either having been consumed in advance or even at the venue?

I know the lengths Fabric goes to, to keep its customers safe

If we are going to take that finger-pointing approach, why have the police not stopped drugs from coming in to Britain or being on our streets? Has it become the sole responsibility of nightclubs and some bars to be the last line of defence?

I know the lengths that Fabric goes to every night to keep its customers safe, from planning and briefing their professional security teams to monitoring and managing their premises continually. They go way beyond almost every other place in Britain.  

We would not permit for a moment the notion of having The Royal Opera House, The Tate Modern, Sadlers Wells or The National closed because of incidents and yet Fabric, with millions of visitors, is punished when it is a victim of crime. It is treated as though it is a crime creator.

We should make no mistake, people visiting this city every weekend are not all going to Buckingham Palace. Many are visiting to enjoy our world-renowned venues, of which Fabric is a jewel in the crown.

Britain has changed due to our relationship with dance music and clubs over the last two decades. Yet while a staggering 50% of clubs have closed in the past 10 years and London has lost an enormous amount of our cultural heritage (last week also saw the closing of Dance Tunnel, Passing Clouds and Shapes) it is incomprehensible that a business in London that has such an impeccable record (the number of people that go there every year is equivalent to multiple Glastonbury festivals) is being treated as though it is a criminal establishment.

We need more drug harm reduction schemes, in city centres as well as at clubs, more education, more honesty and encouragement for people to take personal responsibility. What we don't need is to shut down businesses under the false notion that somehow drugs will then magically disappear from our streets.  

International artists and DJs have decried the decision, and mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted he urged "Fabric the Met & Islington to find an approach that protects clubbers' safety & the future of the club", which is encouraging.

But the truth is, Fabric now faces the enormous financial burden of being closed with over 100 staff for several weeks until review.

The fact that Fabric spent a year in court to prevent having sniffer dogs (which are around 20% effective and some would argue counter-productive as some customers panic and swallow substances when they see the dogs) now looks as though some may want to punish it further and teach it a lesson.

The reason we launched our national campaign #nightlifematters was to encourage what we call the 'silent majority' in Britain to have their voices heard with their local MP’s and councillors.

We know how much our capital cherishes nights out and how the statistics around serious crime have significantly declined over the last decade. People are drinking less than ever before in general and we know that when they have their voices heard – as they did with the We Love Hackney campaign last year, it has an effect.

We all have a common interest and goal here. More honesty means further safety and more professionalism. This is a moment where much is in the balance and one of Britain's most important cultural hubs is threatened with permanent closure.

On the day we finally get to have our 24-hour tube, we all have a responsibility in having our voices heard to ensure London is truly open for us all.

Last Updated 19 August 2016