Save Fabric: The campaign that united clubland - - Mixmag

Save Fabric: The campaign that united clubland

Dance music found its voice and stood behind the London venue

  • Words: Funster | Illustration: Eliot Wyatt
  • 22 November 2016

At 1.05am on September 7, Mixmag tweeted three words that would reverberate around the world.

“Fabric will close.”

The dance music community fell to its knees as news that one of the most revered nightclubs and institutions that we’ve ever known would no longer operate. I was sat in Islington Town Hall for seven hours as the review took place to determine whether fabric was to lose or retain its licence following its suspension three weeks earlier.

It was one of the most draining experiences of my journalistic career. The police, the licensing authority and Cameron Leslie, fabric’s co-founder, presented their cases to a full room that housed DJs, journalists, members of the NTIA and a large amount of fabric’s staff, all of whose jobs were on the line.

At 1.05am when the decision was passed for the licence to be revoked, there weren’t gasps, there weren’t groans, there weren’t shouts of anger or dismay. There was silence. Complete and utter silence.

The reality that a venue, working at the pinnacle of professionalism for 17 years, a venue that provided over 250 jobs and one that’s welcomed millions of ravers over nearly two decades, would no longer open its doors, was too much for words.

The campaign to Save Fabric started on the steps of Islington town hall just minutes after the verdict was made. It was time to fight. It was time for fabric, the dance music media and the club community to rally together to battle this.

On November 21 at 3.34pm Mixmag tweeted three more


The journey to this point was one that saw clubland unite for one collective cause. This was bigger than one club: while fabric was the centre point for the combined force, we were fighting for our right to enjoy night time culture.

Closing fabric was an attack on dance music, so if the police were going to come for our culture then we were going to respond. Before the licence renewal meeting took place, fabric had secured over 160,000 signatures on a petition from people all over the globe to keep the club open and although this ultimately didn’t sway the council’s decision, it acted as the basis for the following campaign.

160,000 people got behind the club and that set the benchmark for the sheer amount of support shown by the community. The club closed for three months and in that time over £326,000 was raised in support. Money that could keep the club alive even if the music inside was turned off.

Just because the doors to fabric weren’t open, that didn’t mean that the club would just roll over and stop, far from it. The club moved its parties to a wealth of different locations and a series of raves popped up around the country, with profits being split and going towards the campaign fund.

The inaugural events took place on October 16 and 17, the weekend that fabric’s world-famous birthday usually sits and some of the club’s most heralded acts split themselves across Great Suffolk Street Warehouse and Village Underground.

Ben UFO, Ricardo Villalobos, Seth Troxler, Joy Orbison and Ben Klock all appeared and played to raise money for the cause. From then on, events in Leeds, parties at The Warehouse Project and more announced in London would be where fabric set-up shop temporarily and people raved in support.

Away from the party front, Amy Lamé was appointed as Night Czar and Sadiq Khan rallied the cause. Khan revealed yesterday that “Lamé held conversations with Islington Council, the Metropolitan Police and Fabric.” in the first week of her role.

Away from the parties and the politicians was a huge grassroots movement. There was the guy who danced outside fabric for 24 hours, Goldie announcing he’d melt down his MBE if the club wasn’t reopened, countless ravers and DJs pledging their hard-earned cash and enough commotion caused that the mainstream press and, importantly, Islington council had to take notice. Dance music proved it still had a collective voice, one that could be roused when things weren't right in the rave.

Fabric is going to re-open but not without cost. There are some pretty rigid new rules that have been put in place and they’re a little disconcerting (life-time bans for anyone caught in possession of drugs, no under 19s allowed in at the weekends, more surveillance, ID scanners…) But it's clear that fabric had to do what it takes to get the show back on the road: 250 staff members will get their jobs back, the world’s best DJs will be once again allowed to give the exemplary soundsystem a work out and we, the punters, will be back in room one until they kick us out.

We must use the momentum of the Save Fabric campaign to make sure other clubs are protected and the people who frequent them kept safe. We – the Night Czar, night time-friendly politicians, club owners, DJs, promoters, dance music media, fans – must work toward a culture that promotes drugs education and harm reduction and insists that it be taken seriously by the government and police. Fabric has set a precedence, that dance music should be protected, and that must be upheld.

The people saved fabric. Every Tweet, every Facebook post, every donation, every chat to your mate about it at the pub. These are the things that sparked conversation, that kept the campaign relevant and that made Islington council realise that our anguish and disappointment wasn’t going to go away, it was going to get more furious and more heavily fought.

You should all be proud of yourselves.

Funster is Mixmag's Deputy Digital Editor. Follow him on Twitter

Eliot Wyatt is a freelance illustrator and regular contributor to Mixmag. Visit his website

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