By Lisa van Leer
With half of London’s nightclubs closing in the last five years, will there actually be anywhere left to go ‘out out’ on a Sunday night?
A new music venue in London called Printworks has opened last month. The new club, with a capacity of 5000 people, can only organize day parties because it does not have a 24-hour license. A new nightclub that is shut at night- what is happening to London’s nightlife?
London is the world leader in music, arts and culture. You would assume it is impossible for nightlife to die in a city where so many creative individuals come together to express themselves long after the sun goes down. But Thomas van Berckel, co-founder of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “Nightclubs are closing at an alarming rate: dropping from 3144 in 2005 to 1733 last year.”
As club after club sells its body parts to developers, it is hard not to be worried about the future of our capital’s nightlife. Steadily, high-end residential developments, draconian licensing and noise complaints are pushing music venues to close down and suffocating London’s night entertainment. As a result, 43% of London’s music venues closed down between 2007 and 2015. There are only 30 nightclubs or bars trading withw a 24-hour license left in London. For a city that claims it wants to be part of a 24-hour community, this is a ridiculous low number.
The on-going destruction of London’s nightlife is partially just the damaging logic of capitalism. The music venues add to the city’s cultural capital, making it a trendy and exciting place where people want to live. However the inevitable housing developments result in the clubs facing licensing problems as the new residents complain about the noise and other disturbances to the local authorities. It seems the residents, who once moved to the area because of its cool vibe, would now rather get a fresh 7:00 A.M. start and be in the office early than enjoy a thriving night culture. It seems to be part of the way London works: swallowing up all the reasons why people want to live there in the first place.
“The on-going destruction of London’s nightlife is partially just the damaging logic of capitalism”
It is undeniable that nightlife goes hand in hand with noise disruption and other anti-social behaviour. Face it: there is nothing harder to make a person who had a beer too many shut the f*** up. Consequently many clubs and bars have been forced to close down because they can’t afford to soundproof their premises. However the new “agent of change principle”, which mayor of London Sadiq Khan wants to introduce, could simply resolve this problem. “With the ‘agent of change’ principle, the cost of soundproofing will fall on housing developers rather than venues. This is a simple measure but will have a massive effect on smaller, independent bars and clubs who often aren’t able to afford the costs involved,” says Sadiq Khan.
Going on a night out is a form of escapism, where individuals have the opportunity to forget about the stress and worries of everyday life. Night owls know that it is after sunrise when you get inspired, yet politicians still don’t want to acknowledge the importance of nightclubs as part of our culture. The unique aspect of nightclubs compared to other forms of art lies in their participatory character. The space of a club is obviously communal and follows the instinctive desire to share experiences with other people. Nightlife is where you form communities that you didn’t even realise you wanted to be a part of. Going out is a distinctive platform used to express yourself and form your identity; and to engage in conversations with sweaty strangers you shoulder barge with at the dance floor or bond over a 5:00 A.M. fag while the sun comes up and sweat drips down your back.
A dance club is a space where people are able to express a different side of their character. Hence why nightlife is greatly appreciated by the LGBT community, as individuals feel free to behave, dress or interact in ways not particularly suitable for everyday life. The survival of these communities requires physical spaces. An entire dislocation of these communities will take place once venues get closed down.
Over the years many London boroughs have pursued a much more strict licensing policy towards nightclubs, which seem to push the venues away from the area. The West End clubs already have to close at 3:00 A.M., but now the underground music culture in the trendier East is also at risk as less and less venues are open till the early hours. But if we don’t allow people to go out in a safe and regulated environment, they will just pursue it elsewhere, outside the law, creating much more danger and disruption. If we don’t want young Londoners escaping to Amsterdam or Berlin to enjoy a booming nightlife, where clubs are supported and allowed to flourish, something in our capital needs to change. We need to convince the authorities – the people that are hired to have our best interests at heart – that as long as we are able to express ourselves, and dance with people we love, more good than bad things will happen.