The End Of Clubbing
Just as Berlin is still famous for its nightlife (much of it existing in sweaty metalhead basements), London was once ranked beside LA and New York for clubs. While it still trumps everyone in the lists of world’s best bars, the clubs have shut up shop. A depressing article in the Evening Standard points out that most promoters don’t have dedicated homes anymore but exist only online, picking one-off venues whenever they can sell tickets. What went wrong?
A perfect storm occurred; rocketing property values meant that large spaces were quickly snapped up. You could have landed a 747 in the space underneath the old Astoria Theatre (now also gone) in Charing Cross Road. Younger people stopped drinking (figures show the number touching alcohol before the age of 24 is down by a third in the capital) and the internet happened, the main leisure activity providing solipsistic pleasures which are unshareable in large venues.
When I first moved to King’s Cross there was a gigantic club called Bagleys that used to stage an August Bank Holiday 24 hour four-day event that shook my kitchen from over a quarter of a mile away. It was fine; we used to go away for the weekend and let them enjoy themselves. Clubbers who went to ‘Trade’ were known as Trade Babies and could be seen blundering out bleary-eyed at 7am on a Sunday morning on Clerkenwell Road. The building is now flats.
People are paying so much more for flats that they want peace and quiet when they’re home, and such clubs can’t survive without facing endless legal challenges. Recently some overpriced ‘luxury lofts’ were offered near me in Chapel Street, where there’s a daily market. Almost at once complaints about the mess, noise and traders rolled in from the new tenants, some of whom had moved from Notting Hill ‘because it’s spoiled now’! Gentrification has its upsides, of course, but the price rises affect all.
It’s interesting that in a time when everyone wants Instagrammable ‘experiences’ people are getting touchy about being in a crowded basement full of hedonists. The clubs were always invisible, of course, being situated in warehouses and old factories. Will they be missed? Perhaps in some indefinable way. They were a rite of passage. The huge LGTB ones were best because they were so incredibly safe and upbeat, but other clubs were dogged with violence and drug offences.
Pubs are visible stitches in the city’s tapestry, and their loss is sorely felt; clubs aren’t, and times move on.