When he was dangling from a zip wire over east London last year, Boris Johnson didn’t look like much of a superhero for British clubbers. Yet the nation’s best-known super club, Ministry of Sound, has chosen to characterise the Mayor of London as a caped crusading champion of the right to rave, in the hope that he will safeguard its future at a crucial meeting today.
The Mayor has called in a decision over plans to build a 41-storey residential block directly opposite the club, which has been operating from the site of a former bus garage in Elephant & Castle, south London, since 1991.
Ministry of Sound fears its future will be threatened by noise complaints from future residents of the skyscraper – and the “calling in” is not good news for the club. On the four previous occasions when Mr Johnson has followed this process he has always sided with developers. Yet rather than using pressure to influence him, the club has opted for flattery.
“Only one person can be the saviour of Ministry of Sound – Boris, be our hero”, was the message of an online campaign last week depicting the “Supermayor” as a latter day Clark Kent, albeit with a hefty girth.
Lohan Presencer, Ministry of Sound’s chief executive, said the club’s concerns that it could be closed down by future legal challenges were very real. “We are saying, ‘Please give us the protection that we need to ensure our future is safe’,” he said.
The club has asked that buyers of apartments in the tower, Eileen House, should sign a “Deed of Easement” in which they acknowledge the club’s presence and promise not to complain about the noise. “It’s so that Ministry of Sound can operate at the noise levels it has always operated at,” he said.
Oakmayne Properties, the developer, has indicated that some of the flats will be built with sealed “winter garden” glazing, rather than open balconies. But the club thinks it could still be vulnerable to legal challenges over noise levels once residents move in.
The Mayor is not known as a clubber, although he toured Ministry of Sound on a site visit earlier this year, during which he stood by the Eileen House site and listened to the beat of the club sound system. “He acknowledged that the sounds were audible and that residents wouldn’t like it,” Mr Presencer said.
He said the club had decided it would be more productive to mount a charm offensive rather than stage noisy protests outside the Mayor’s offices. “I don’t think being down there with placards is a collaborative way of dealing with the problem. We have an audience of millions who buy our records, follow us online and come to our club. They are young people and we wanted to appeal to the Mayor in a language they would appreciate.”
Ironically for Ministry of Sound, which moved into Elephant & Castle when it was a distinctly rundown neighbourhood and desperately short of investment, the club’s fame has contributed to the area’s current cachet and the recent spate of redevelopment.
Oakmayne said it did not wish to comment on the matter ahead of the hearing.