Danger on the dance floor: how bad drugs policy is forcing Britain’s nightclubs to close
New Statesman's Philip Maughan looks at how the changing perceptions of nightclubs and drug culture have impacted laws and licenses for better or for worse. Further more, Maughan delves into the repercussions of these laws and licenses on the safety and health of ravers and party-goers as well as progressive solutions like drug-testing.This article originally appeared on New Statesman
Faric might be reopening, but almost 45 per cent of Britain’s clubs have closed since 2005.
In 1994, parliament passed the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which gave special powers to the police to shut down the many free, illegal parties that had sprung up in abandoned government buildings, disused industrial spaces and the fields beyond the M25 since the emergence of acid house in the 1980s. In case of any doubt that this legislation was intended to target electronic dance music specifically, Section 63 of the act defines the soundtrack of these “raves” as “predominantly characterised” by “a succession of repetitive beats”.
There was widespread objection from the scene. The electro duo Autechre released the track “Flutter”, which attempted to subvert the law with a deliberately off-kilter rhythm. (The sleevenotes recommended that DJs keep “a lawyer and a musicologist present” to fend off “police harassment”.)
Yet the act wasn’t all bad. Organised crime, faulty equipment and blocked toilets were frequent features of the free party scene. The new law drove ravers into regulated nightclubs – not free, but designed for partying – where first aid, security, tap water and air-conditioning guaranteed smooth passage of the night.
In this context, the decision by Islington Council in September to revoke the licence held by Fabric, the nightclub in Farringdon, central London, was all the more confusing...