After the license revocation of the iconic Fabric nightclub more information is coming to light about the circumstances surrounding the closure. The clubs co founder and director, Cameron Leslie, was one of many prominent Londoners who gave a powerful speech in defence of the club as part of the six hour trial held yesterday.
“The notion that we provide a safe haven for drugs is frankly insulting to the considerable efforts we have put in over the years. My co-founder Keith Reilly stood up to a significant organised crime organisation who wanted to run drugs in to this club just after we opened. He had to move his family out of their home and wear a bulletproof vest for nearly a month. So we know very well the real life challenges of running a clean venue in London.
District Judge Allison, who spent the week going over our operations and procedures in December last year, called us a “beacon of best practice” and commended our stance on tackling drugs. In as late as June this year Islington Police sent the management of another London venue who had suffered a fatality to us to see how we did it, citing our procedures as the best in the business.
Yet a matter of days later we are damned in a Central Licensing report. ” (Full speech available HERE)
The facts don’t seem to be adding up. The management of Fabric says there has been a positive and collaborative effort between them, the Met Police and the Islington council for the last 17 years since their opening in 1999. They claim to be completely open and transparent with pioneering new ways of confiscation and auditing illegal substances as well as paying the legal fees to regularly take drug dealers to court to seek convictions for violations on the club property. But since 2012, out of the 80 dealers they have had arrested, there has only been 1 conviction.
The Islington council’s official statement on the closure cites 11 reasons for the decisions, 2 concerning the tragic deaths of patrons, the other 9 are vague bits of observations from an undercover police operation on July 2, 2016. The operations was titled “Operation Lenor”, a popular fabric softener in the UK, funny but not really.
So after years of good practice and hard earned community respect why is Fabric really closed? Islington council has lost 50% of its funding since 2010 and faces another £17 million in cuts in 2016 alone. The Islington Police force could lose up to 44% of its staff- thats 250 officers. And the social media back lash attacking these organisations is short sighted. It is easy, as regulars in a subculture of heavy bass, dark dance floors and baggies, to forget that even with 150,000 signatures on a petition, there are other forces in motion. People who don’t see or understand the positivity we feel from music and dance and don’t understand that this closure will do nothing to prevent the use of illegal substances.
“Drug-taking is endemic in British society and there’s not a shred of evidence anywhere to suggest closing nightclubs will somehow either lower drug harm or eliminate consumption. It’s a smokescreen for a drug policy that has consistently failed over a 50-year period. Short of performing a colonoscopy on every clubber, it’s impossible to eliminate all drug use in clubs and, indeed, anywhere else. “
So again, a piece of culture, an icon of art and community, has closed its doors due to ineffective drug policy and an overstretched government budget. We need to impress upon our leaders the importance of taking a progressive (and more affordable) stance on these issues, education, prevention and harm reduction.