It’s your typical British January and you’re standing in an enormous queue in the freezing cold. You reach the front and are vigorously searched by an army of men who are a bit too heavy handed for your liking, given you’ve been waiting for about two hours.
“ID please,” they bark, turning those away who fail to present the adequate credentials. You wonder what they’re going to do with the scans of your driving licence. Can they sell that? Wait… Why are they taking a photo of your face? “It’s just standard procedure,” they repeat. Next thing you know, you’re pushed into a loud room full of beady-eyed people that you’re quite convinced are spies, and there is CCTV absolutely everywhere. You wonder whether they have it in the toilet stalls. They probably do.
No – you’re not about enter the Arena in The Hunger Games and it’s not some kind of detention centre. It’s Fabric, under a new set of conditions agreed between the club and Islington Council (and I can’t help but think the settlement was far more in one party’s favour than the other.)
After two young people died at the club during the summer after taking drugs, Islington Council made the decision to revoke Fabric’s license, stating that there was a “culture of drugs that the management cannot control”.
Musicians, artists, party-goers and fun-lovers united to see that it didn’t go down without a fight, and the Save Fabric campaign was born. Yesterday, the campaign won its appeal and Fabric was given the chance to open its doors once more, providing the club can adhere to the new regulations negotiated on its license.
These regulations include no entry to “core club nights” for people under 19, an ID scanning system, improved lighting – whatever that means – and additional CCTV and covert surveillance within the club.
There will also be a zero tolerance approach to drugs – meaning a lifetime ban if you’re caught dealing, buying, in possession of or taking drugs in or outside the premises.
And this is where the problem lies. Don’t get me wrong – I love Fabric and everything that it stands for. I think it’s one of the greatest London establishments and I’ll be back in there as quick as you can say Mandy –– but if the closure was really down to an uncontrollable drug issue, why hasn’t more been done to change the way the venue is allowed to deal with inevitable recreational drug users going forward?
This is a set of conditions that we’re expected to herald a victory, but in reality it only serves to keep the police sat in their cars eating doughnuts rather than fighting pilled-up 18-year-olds and the responsibility of controlling the drug problem off the council.
When Secret Garden Party became the first festival to offer a drug-testing service this summer, a quarter of the 200 people that used the service dropped their drugs in amnesty bins after learning that their ketamine was actually anti-malaria medication, or that their MDMA was actually ammonium sulphate.
It’s time we stopped underestimating recreational drug users, party-goers and all round good time guys, and focus on creating a lasting, progressive, forward-thinking drug policy that reduces harm for the people that do take drugs, and educates those who aren’t sure about them.
Give people a chance to make informed decisions for themselves and they will. This is not a subculture of pill-popping, dead-brained people who want to get out of their tree every weekend, and the sooner we recognise this, the sooner we can make a change.
There is no blame to be pinned on Fabric – their campaign to reopen their doors has been a war against an establishment that deems nightlife as something dirty and dangerous, favouring dinner parties, members’ club (where everyone still does coke in the toilets but nobody minds) and a night in with Strictly over “those ghastly nightclubs”, without seeing what the two have in common – a desire to spend your time how you wish, with your mates either round a table or in a circle on a dancefloor.
So here’s to Fabric, the club that has proved to the world how much we young people care about our nightlife.
I’ll see you at the opening night – have fun, if they let you.
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