Here in the UK, amongst the bleak skies, the questionable politics and the slowly popping bubble of post-education hedonism, there has always stood a saving grace. Nestled between the never-ending growth of carbon-copy franchises and polished steel, lies an escape from the 'working' hours, and a testing-ground for our greatest creators.
The UK's club scene has always lingered amongst the forefront of popular culture, even on the world stage it's been hailed as one of our greatest achievements. So how have we arrived at this moment, in which reports from all angles are shouting about the loss of almost half of our club venues in the past 10 years? Since 2005, the number has is reported to have fallen from 1,733 from 3,144.
Opinions have been bubbling to the surface since the news dropped last week. They range from the ever-increasing noise complaints looming over venue owners' heads as gentrification aids to bring more residents into city life, to the UK simply falling out of love with our nightclubs. But let’s make it clear, in the UK we are still in love with proper club culture. Whether it’s the mainstream side of the coin with the likes of Disclosure, a band who have been catapulted from a slight underground buzz around small parts of Britain, to number 1 releases and slots at Coachella and Lollapalooza in just 3 years, or the continued success of the UK underground with the popularity of events such as Free Rotation Festival, The Hydra and Cosmic Slop growing every day. We should also remember that although pinnacles of the UK underground like Plastic People are closing their doors, and power houses like Fabric have teetered on the edge, it is the response to these incidents that should be noted. The saddening affect and outpouring of emotions and stories run right across the country. To say that the UK is falling out of love with clubbing doesn’t add up.
The figures released span 2005 – 2015, covering the monumental rise of dubstep in 07 that gifted us Skream, Sub Focus and Nero to name a few, all acts that are still at the top of their game. Britain's most recent fixation with the House revival that has sprawled into the charts and prime time radio began nearer to the end of the period covered, a fixation that seems to show no discernible signs of slowing.
It seems we haven't yet lost that spark for our clubs. I was lucky enough to find myself at Manchester's Parklife this summer, a festival built from the ground up by Manchester clubbing institution The Warehouse Project, a real success story of the UK’s clubbing culture that has ground it’s way up the ladder based upon a very simple warehouse partying ideal.
Of course this could all be a more political game, one in which the rising price in the cost of living jostles with the unstable job-market causing a vast lack of enthusiasm and wealth to threaten the late-night dance floors, forcing clubbers back to smaller clubs and off the radar private parties.
Whatever the true cause, or cocktail of events that has lead us here, we certainly are here. Once loved and respected musical institutions are disappearing, with great steel headstones rising in their place. Without these spaces artists may never have found their identities, scenes may have never blossomed, dreams may have never been born and our culture may have never been so vibrant and earned the respect it has across the globe. It’s true, we have lost half of our nightclubs in the past 10 years, but the ones we have need to know that the country still cares. Support your clubs and in turn everything they have and can contribute to wider society.
Words by Sean Toohey
Images (in order) courtesy of Justin Gardner, FACT, robot mafia and The Warehouse Project.