2016. Outside Fabric, on a cold autumn weekday morning, a steady stream of people stop to snap photographs, and read the many epitaphs taped to the doors of this hallowed territory. Hallowed territory in purgatory. Some of those messages read:
“I will never forget the 1st time I took my mother here. I will never forget your amazing staff. I 💙 U.”
“No one ever stops me dancing. Save rave culture! Save Fabric!”
“Save our creative spaces.”
“If people bring bombs to an airport, you don’t close down the airport.”
“I am dancing for 24 hours to #SAVEFABRIC.”
“Fabric is family.”
“Last week, memories snuck out of my eyes, and rolled down my cheeks. We will dance again <3”
My history — my personal relationship with Fabric, goes way back to before Fabric was Fabric. Summer ’89, I arrived at some East London warehouse, just after the boys in blue arrived to crash the party. “No worries,” said the whispers. And cars coalesced into a convoy, off to find the next venue — The City of London’s Smithfield market.
Ravers danced around cars to tunes blasting from systems, meeting and mingling, whilst guys jemmied the empty warehouse’s padlock, dragged in equipment, sparked the electricity, cranked the sound, and we danced our way, way into daylight. As the Circle Line awoke, Farringdon’s bemused passengers looked up at our comotion, our floating emotions. That warehouse became Fabric.
Ten years later, I was back nursing at St Bartholomew’s Intensive Care Unit, and had just written ‘All Crew Muss Big Up’. During my coffee break on night duty, I covered my theatre scrubs with a puffer jacket, went down to the huge queue outside Fabric, and started handing out flyers for All Crews to receptive ravers.
I can’t remember my first ever night on Fabric’s dance floors. But I do remember Fabric becoming part of ravers’ mentality. You’d hear Fabric’s name here. You’d hear Fabric’s name there. You’d hear Fabric’s name everywhere. I could spend eons reciting the prestigious roll call of artists who’ve graced their decks, but their rosta is global; as is — as was their clientele.
When writing the 2004 All Crews update, it was gratifying to hear that, the management had been championing drum & bass from day one. Fabric felt like home. They had a sound system which rumbled your soul. Fabric is a legend in its own time. Their staff were of our mentality, our sensibility, our people. And even when Multiple Sclerosis exchanged my feet on the dance floor for wheels on the dance floor, Fabric’s lift and walkways (rollways), made access to all areas possible. Unfortunately, while we danced away the time of our lives, other ravers died.
Cut to SunandBass 2016, September 7th. There we were basking in drum & bass heaven, sipping mojitos on Sardinia’s emerald isle; lounging in perfect moments, until mobiles buzzed. People clocked screens, mouthing pain and disbelief. The police, Islington Council and the courts, had declared Fabric’s party over. Another death in clubland’s family, after so many other London clubs have died. And deaths were the problem.
Back in 2014, authorities forced a review of Fabric’s licence, following eight people collapsing, four of whom died. Within nine weeks this summer, Ryan Brown and Jack Crosses, both aged 18, died; one inside Fabric, the other on its doorstep. Fabric agreed to close its doors, until the cause of those deaths could be investigated. At least that’s what they thought. Fabric’s management, probably didn’t calculate on dealing with Superintendent Nick Davies of the Metropolitan Police; especially after Fabric won their court case against them and Islington Council. Those authorities insisted Fabric institute ID scans and sniffer dogs. Fabric argued that scans would lengthen queuing time, which is already a problem with the 2,500 capacity club. Fabric also feared, sniffer dogs might panic punters into necking their stash, causing the very overdose fatalities, everyone’s trying to avoid.
Is Fabric being singled out by Nasty Nick? In July, 22-year-old Will Moss died outside Southend’s Chameleons club. In May, 17 year old Faye Allen, died while clubbing in Manchester. But those club’s have remained open. At Glastonbury, we at Festival Medical Service, failed to resuscitate a guy who’d overdosed. People die in drug related circumstances at Glastonbury. But Glastonbury remains open.
While officer Davis wants to end drug deaths, he’s behind the curve, when it comes to the real world of harm reduction. In Cambridge spring 2016, The Secret Garden festival allowed punters to have their party pills tested, with the full agreement of police, and local councillors. There were no deaths. The same is true in Switzerland and Holland, who also focus on harm reduction. If you’re looking for clues Superintendent Davies, or should I call you Super Canute? The truth is out there.
According to Professor Fiona Measham, Durham University’s Professor of Criminology, Holland uses the Drug Information and Monitoring System, which allows for legal and safe drug testing. ‘It has the advantage of letting authorities know when new dangerous variants arrive, such as the Superman ecstasy pills that killed several people in the UK, but not in the Netherlands, because officials were able to warn the public.’
Fiona Measham confirms in The Guardian, “The average strength of MDMA in 2014 was 100mg, much stronger than the average of 20-30mg in 2009. Strength and, sadly, casualties have all risen.” But it’s more complicated. Remember Faye Allen cited above? Everyone, including Faye, assumed she’d taken MDMA. In fact, she died after unknowingly taking PMA, which acts as an anti-depressant, lethal when combined with cocaine or real MDMA. It’s a ravers age old problem; what’s in my pill? On continental Europe, so called super pills have been found containing between a mind boggling 275mg and 340mg MDMA; an amount likely to take users not only off their faces, but out of this world, into the next. 15-year-old Martha Fernback, died in Oxford in June 2013, after she’d sampled MDMA rated at 91% pure.
Alan Miller, Chairman of the Night Time Industries Association, commented, “If the operational measures Fabric already have in place, aren’t enough to satisfy a licence committee, then no club stands a chance… If you close Fabric, you’ll have to close every nightclub in Britan, because no one has the due diligence, extra staff, and safety measures they employ.”
I agree from experience. I once went to the aid of a fallen clubber, only to be shooed away by Fabric’s paramedics. Management later explained their policy. As they have no way of knowing, if off duty medical staff, were or weren’t also off their faces, they relied on their own medical staff. Good policy. As for the claim regarding ‘inadequate’ searches? I’ve heard mates complaining about Fabric’s breast fondling, crotch groping body searches, being the most intrusive in clubland.
The causes of ecstasy deaths aren’t inside Fabric, or even in its queue. They’re in the open drugs market. As the ‘War on Drugs’ has blatantly been lost, testing is crucial. Especially as Fabric’s closure, is likely to spawn a proliferation of illegal raves.
Meanwhile, Mayor Sadiq Khan has just appointed Amy Lamé, as London’s first night Czar. “For too long,” Amy states, “The capital’s night-time industry has been under pressure. Music venues and nightclubs in particular, are closing at an alarming rate.”
Fabric tweeted: “We’d like to congratulate @amylame on becoming London #nightczar, and look forward to working together in the future.” On November 28, the whole clubbing world will be watching, when Fabric’s appeal comes before the courts. We pray that Fabric has a future, in which we’ll all dance in our club again.