Una Mullally: Clubs are part of the fabric of any brilliant city

Closure of iconic London club highlights paucity of Dublin’s clubbing scene

The closure of the nightclub Fabric in London is a devastating blow not just to England's capital, but to the world of clubbing. Fabric was one of the best nightclubs in the world, and like many iconic clubs, its music policy was creative and brilliant, and its impact was huge. Its record label and the FabricLive CD series offers a 15-year series of some of the most exhilarating electronic music around; Jacques Lu Cont, The Herbaliser, Simian Mobile Disco, James Murphy & Pat Mahoney, Aim and Goldie.

This week, after a review of its license in the aftermath of two alleged drug deaths this summer, the license was revoked despite a campaign supported by Fabric's family, some of the biggest names in electronic music, and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Clubs offer a sense of community. They are more than the space, but they need the space. They are where music is discovered and friendships are formed. They are where unforgettable memories are made and bonds with peers are solidified forever. Cities with great nightlife are brilliant. Clubs are the electricity wires that transmit this energy. Without them, we lose so much. Fabric is also a totem, perhaps the biggest casualty of the gutting of London’s nightclubs, 50% of which have closed over the last eight years. Clubs matter, but they’ll stop mattering unless cities step in to protect them.

Dubliners look on with misty-eyed admiration at cities such as London and Berlin, given how small our own clubbing scene is, populated by the nighttime heroes who dare to put together parties to share with their friends in an environment squeezed by finances, spaces, and archaic licensing laws. The POD still lies dormant, The Kitchen was briefly reinvented and now exists as the default entity of Dublin nightlife: an overpriced cocktail bar.


People box the heads off each other and vomit outside pubs, but pubs rarely find themselves meeting political, legal or regulatory opposition. They are spaces that lawmakers and enforcers understand, and so they are left alone. But as nightclubs are closing down at an alarming rate across the UK, and in Ireland, there's also far more money to be made in smaller scale overpriced cocktail bars than allowing kids to dance in a big room with a decent soundsystem.

When you deny people physical space in which to gather, socialise and share the experience of listening and dancing to music it is in essence a cultural amputation. In the summer, corporate festivals fill that void, an outlet for temporary hedonism, a valve that allows the pent up energy to be released. But we need the dark rooms and the low ceilings, the chatter in the smoking sections and the thrill of a great tune. We need the hugs at closing time and the beaming DJs. We need the beat and the lights and the skill of a mix. We need discovery, we need energy, we need these spaces to be valued and protected and fought for.

It is hard to argue the case of a club closure when people die. That is an absolute tragedy. But archaic too are drug laws, laws that criminalise normally law-abiding citizens, and create massive profits for criminal gangs, when the obvious solution is to legalise, regulate and tax all drugs to ensure users’ safety, a solution which would also effectively end much of the ancillary criminality that spins off from the drug trade.

It’s drugs that were offered as the reason for Fabric’s license being revoked, but The London Independent, offers a different story, saying the closure was “a long pre-planned event, orchestrated by a cash-strapped council, using the police as pawns.” In July of this year, the Independent reports, an undercover police operation found “no hard evidence of drug taking inside the venue” and that the report said “the general atmosphere of the club was friendly and non-threatening.”

Islington council, like many UK councils is strapped for funding. In fact, the London Independent reports, the council has lost half of its funding since 2010 and last year confirmed cuts of £70 million would take place over the next four years, including £17 million this year. Perhaps a new commercial development, or a fancy block of flats would be more up the council’s street.

Fabric’s community has a right to feel hard done by. Culture matters. Nightlife and clubs are an intrinsic and vital part of cultlure. When you keep taking people’s culture away from them, they suffer creatively, intellectually, and socially. In Ireland, the focus on nightlife as almost solely a moneymaking enterprise for publicans, towers above the great promoters who are trying and often achieving something with far more creative depth and social value than selling and chugging pints. But you can’t bring “vibe” to the bank.

It’s not just nightclubs, but other alternative social spaces. What was probably the most interesting, important and vibrant cultural hub in Dublin - the squat at Grangegorman - was recently the subject of an eviction and shutdown. In the rigid structures of planning and licensing, there is little leeway and absolute political apathy for creating, supporting and preserving the exciting and vibrant alternative creative nightlife in the city, never mind supporting people who are using vacant buildings as housing in the midst of a housing, homelessness and rental crisis. Licensing laws are archaic, and those attempting to creative multifaceted creative spaces are met with a tangle of almost impenetrable red tape.

Shutting down Fabric closes the doors on an iconic cultural centre. The party might go on elsewhere, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to throw one, to find somewhere to throw one, and to compete against the dollars, pounds and euros of developers and councils.