The End Of Clubbing

Great Britain

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.

7 comments on “The End Of Clubbing”

  1. Peter Dixon says:

    Oh, the curse of gentrification.

    There’s lots going on in the world; people who would have spent their early 20’s partying 2 decades ago now have student loans to pay back and are trying to save a deposit for a home they’ll never be able to have until the Revolution – and I don’t see a generation of revolutionaries out there. Most of them can’t afford to drink any more – its a luxury they can’t indulge.

    Coffee houses were a place of sedition and intellectual discourse during the 1700’s, now you are unlikely to find much other than a discussion of shopping in Costa or its clones.

    Pubs were always the place where people of all classes could exist on an equal level. 20 years ago I could sit in a bar and see regular drinkers talk as equals – these included an art teacher, the manager of a municipal waste disposal works, 3 solicitors, an ice-cream man, Tony Blair’s constituency secretary, a sheet-metal worker, an internationally famous musician, 2 office cleaner’s, a lady’s darts team. The list goes on. The beauty of it was that, in a pub, they were all equal and would chat as equals. This seemingly egalitarian Utopia has all but disappeared.

    Closing pubs mean that new bands have less and less places to play and be viewed.


    Are email, Facebook, Twitter et al really better than close human discourse and a local appreciation that someone else’s beliefs don’t necessarily make them a complete enemy?

    Tricky stuff and few answers but I’m glad I learned about life in the 70’s and 80’s and not now.

  2. Wayne Mook says:

    The problem as not so much online but the selling of buildings, I see so many pubs and clubs that were making money being sold. The loss of a lot tied pubs have proven a disaster.

    Plus clubbing could always be expensive and we are in austerity still, especially for the young.

    Having said that my young cousin goes gigging a lot, there does seem to be a growth in small clubs and small bars (converted shops for quite a few bars.), so it’s not all bad news.


  3. Peter Tromans says:

    Paying the rent is a factor for many. Landlords prefer to have places empty if they can’t collect a huge rent.

    As for alcohol consumption, I understand the present POTUS is TT. There are stories about Ulysses S. Grant’s liking for whisk(e)y, which lend some support to the idea that its consumption should be made compulsory, at least for those in high office.

  4. Brooke says:

    When other generals complained to Lincoln about Grant’s drinking, Grant was winning battles and Lincoln reputedly said: “Maybe I need to give my other generals a taste of what Grant is drinking.

  5. Peter Tromans says:

    Brooke, I remember another version where someone from a temperance group wrote to Lincoln lamenting Grant’s drinking. Supposedly, he replied, “Let me know the brand and I’ll make all the generals drink it.”

    Though he’s been criticised by some historians, my reading is that he was a successful general, a good president and overall a very decent man.

  6. Brooke says:

    Peter, yes, Grant was a good general, decent president and man. All of which led to his impeachment.

  7. Brooke says:

    Sorry–it was Johnson, another troubled soul, who was impeached.

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