London’s club scene is dying and all we can do is shrug a shoulder. Our city used to be one of the most liberal, exciting places in Europe, but it has long since lost that crown to Berlin, of all places. Wasn’t Germany supposed to be a place where people are square and uptight and anything fun is verboten? It should give us pause for thought that Germany now embodies so many of those virtues Britain used to claim as her own, such as freedom and tolerance.
A millennial only knows Britain, the police state. Anyone born in London after 1989 will have grown up with CCTV everywhere, bouncers with attitude, roped off pavements, smoking bans, countless petty rules about taking glasses outside, coming in through one door but having to enter through another, having to squeeze into the venue after ten, even having their pictures taken on entering, like criminals (hello, 93 Feet East). The act of drinking and letting your hair down has become one of the most heavily policed activities you could engage in in today’s Britain. It’s a misery and I feel sorry for the twenty-somethings of today, who never knew the freewheeling London of old. A city that used to take pride in its Swinging London label has been deadened by philistine councils, overbearing police, who instead of serving revellers, expose them to chicanery, and the never-sated monster that is gentrification.
Fabric, one of our most celebrated, iconic nightclubs is the latest casualty – 51st Parallel has already reported on the closure of Madame Jojo’s and The Joiners’ Arms. On this occasion, the crackdown is a reaction to a series of incidents. Over the last three years, eight people have collapsed at the venue, with four of these dying. The latest casualty is an 18-year-old girl who bought what would seem contaminated MDMA at the venue. Threatened with the removal of its licence, the club has been forced to deploy seven sniffer dogs during operating hours. Not only will this probably discourage anyone from coming in the first place, the cost is also prohibitive. A Fabric DJ tells me that a sniffer dog hour comes at £300 – that’s £2,100 per hour and £21,000 for ten hours. You might as well shut the club down.
According to the Evening Standard, “in a police report submitted to the committee, Pc Steven Harrington said: ‘[Fabric] attracts clientele from all over Europe and it would seem that the immaturity or lifestyle of these patrons leads to them becoming actively involved in the taking of illegal drugs and this could account for the disproportionate and wholly unacceptable number of deaths and near death incidents at the venue.'”
Any drug-related death is an unacceptable tragedy. I cannot imagine the anguish of a victim’s friends and family on hearing that their loved one has been killed clubbing. The level of drug-taking in London today, the sordidness that comes with it and the addiction it can lead to all exact an enormous human cost. At the same time, it is part of human nature to get intoxicated. As long as it is legal to buy and consume alcohol, usually to excess, you can’t justify banning other substances such as MDMA, which are far less harmful than booze or nicotine. Neither should we act surprised that people pop pills and sniff all kinds of white powders in clubs – it’s what they’re there for. When, as a society, are we going to come out of denial and deal with the problem rationally? Introducing sniffer dogs in Farringdon won’t turn the tide any more than decades of prohibition have done. The way forward is legalisation. Let drugs be sold legally and openly while providing testing stations so consumers know what they’re taking. Why is this not possible? Because politicians from both parties deliberately ignore factual research and expert voices for purely electoral reasons. Young voters simply don’t matter. They have no electoral clout and little cash. We have slapped tuition fees on them, we have denied them job opportunities. And now we’re busy ruining their fun. If I were young, I’d be very angry at this betrayal.
Our politicians’ cowardice and contempt for the young, with their “immaturity” is not only killing London’s nightlife – it is directly responsible for any death caused by contaminated drugs. Still, as was the case with sexual mores, an unstoppable societal shift towards liberalisation is coming. But for Fabric and its followers, it may well come too late.
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