Over 135,000 Londoners signed a petition to save Fabric – then just three councillors decided to close it

Flowers and a message are left outside Fabric nightclub following the announcement of its closure. Image: Getty.

Fabric has closed. The decision came shortly after 1am on Wednesday, following a hearing that lasted nearly seven hours, in which included highly charged testimony from both sides.

The hearing occasionally felt like it was descending into satire. At one point, serious discussion was devoted to whether reducing the “beats per minute” of the music played at the club might help reduce drug use.

In the end, the verdict was announced and it was the wrong one. Fabric has closed, and London is the worse for it.

There are many reasons to be dismayed about the decision. First, the loss of a venue which means so much to so many and is known around the world for the strength of its music policy and its reputation as a beacon of London club culture. To many, Fabric is more than just a nightclub. It is a record label, a community, and a name synonymous with underground electronic music. It will not be easily replaced.

There are also much wider implications. The decision to close Fabric illustrates a profound gap between many of London’s residents and the people who make the decisions which govern their lives. Fabric has fallen victim to a licensing system which hands total control over late-night venues to those who comprehensively fail to understand their worth. Decisions are made by local councillors who are overwhelmingly drawn from a demographic that neither visits nightclubs nor understands their importance.


Fabric can appeal the council’s decision. Perhaps it will reopen. But this was always about more than one club. Recent weeks have seen the closure of Dance Tunnel, Shapes, and Passing Clouds. Look only a little further back and we’ve seen the loss of institutions such as Plastic People, Madame JoJo’s, and countless others. All closed for different reasons – but their collective loss shows the scale of the battle that must be fought if London’s nightlife is to have any kind of future at all.

In the case of Fabric, much of the debate was about drugs. The Met Police called for a licence review after the tragic deaths of two 18-year-old men in the space of just nine weeks earlier this summer. Fabric’s supporters have pointed to the unfair burden that is placed on nightclubs to deal with the inflow of drugs – a problem that even prisons seem unable to tackle. Despite this, the Met successfully argued that to close Fabric would guard against future drug deaths, despite independent expert testimony which pointed to the contrary.

Others also proved powerless to intervene. London mayor Sadiq Khan came to power after a campaign in which he claimed to be the candidate who would “save London’s iconic club culture”. He may now be regretting such a bold statement. He has presided over the launch of the night tube and recently began recruiting for a “night czar”. But when it came to Fabric’s fate, he proved powerless. With the decision lying in the hands of Islington Council, Khan was left calling from the sidelines for a “common sense solution”, an appeal which clearly fell on deaf ears.

More compelling was the public outcry. A petition to save Fabric gathered more than 135,000 signatures before the hearing. The campaign secured the support of music industry figures ranging from Annie Mac to the Chemical Brothers and Andy C to Carl Cox. The Royal Albert Hall tweeted in support. An elderly Polish couple who made headlines earlier this year after partying at Fabric until 5am joined the campaign.  Hundreds of people wrote to Islington Council to explain how much Fabric meant to them.

In the end, it counted for nothing. Following a licensing review requested by the Metropolitan Police, the decision to close Fabric was made by just three Islington councillors. They may never understand the value of what we’ve lost.

Mark Wilding tweets as @mark_wilding.

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Cycling on London’s Euston Road is still a terrifying experience

Cyclists on the Euston Road. Image: Jonn Elledge.

The New Road, which skirted the northern boundaries of London’s built up area, first opened in the 1750s. Originally, it was intended to link up outlying villages and provide a route to drive sheep and cows to the meat market at Smithfield without having to pass through the congested city centre. 

As with bypasses and ring roads the world over, however, it increasingly became congested in its own right. Today, you won’t often find livestock on the route, which is now Marylebone, Euston and City roads. But you will find up to six lanes of often stationary buses, cabs, and private vehicles. In a city whose centre is largely free of multi-lane highways, London’s northern ring road has long been the sort of abomination that you avoid at all costs.

But now, somewhat surprisingly, the road is seeing yet another new use. Earlier this week, the first phase of a temporary cycle lane opened on the Euston Road, the middle section of the route which runs for roughly a mile. As London rethinks roads throughout the city, this addition to the cycling map falls solidly into the category of streets that didn't seem like candidates for cycling before the pandemic.

It is, to be clear, temporary. That’s true of many of the Covid-led interventions that Transport for London is currently making, though those in the know will often quietly admit to hoping they end up being permanent. In this case, however, the agency genuinely seems to mean it: TfL emphasized in its press release that the road space is already being allocated for construction starting late next year and that "TfL will work with local boroughs to develop alternate routes along side streets" when the cycle lane is removed.

At lunchtime on Friday, I decided to try the lane for myself to understand what an unlikely, temporary cycle lane can accomplish. In this case it's clear that the presence of a lane only accomplishes so much. A few key things will still leave riders wanting:

It’s one way only. To be specific, eastbound. I found this out the hard way, after attempting to cycle the Euston Road westbound, under the naive impression that there was now a lane for me in which to do this. Neither I nor the traffic I unexpectedly found myself sharing space with enjoyed the experience. To be fair, London’s cycling commissioner Will Norman had shared this information on Twitter, but cyclists might find themselves inadvertently mixing with multiple lanes of much, much bigger vehicles.

It radically changes in width. At times the westbound route, which is separated from the motor traffic by upright posts, is perhaps a metre and a half wide. At others, such as immediately outside Euston station, it’s shared with buses and is suddenly four or five times that. This is slightly vexing.

It’s extremely short. The publicity for the new lane said it would connect up with other cycle routes on Hampstead Road and Judd Street (where Cycleway 6, the main north-south crosstown route, meets Euston Road). That’s a distance of roughly 925m. It actually runs from Gower Street to Ossulton Street, a distance of barely 670m. Not only does the reduced length mean it doesn’t quite connect to the rest of the network, it also means that the segregated space suddenly stops:

The junction between Euston Road and Ousslston Street, where the segregated lane suddenly, unexpectedly stops. Image: Jonn Elledge.

 

It’s for these reasons, perhaps, that the new lane is not yet seeing many users. Each time I cycled the length of it I saw only a handful of other cyclists (although that did include a man cycling with a child on a seat behind him – not something one would have expected on the Euston Road of the past).


Though I hesitate to mention this because it feeds into the car lobby’s agenda, it was also striking that the westbound traffic – the side of the road which had lost a lane to bikes – was significantly more congested than the eastbound. If the lane is extended, it could, counterintuitively, help, by removing the unexpected pinch points at which three lanes of cars suddenly have to squeeze into two.

There’s a distinctly unfinished air to the project – though, to be fair, it’s early days. The eastbound lane needs to be created from scratch; the westbound extended. At that point, it would hopefully be something TfL would be keen enough to talk about that cyclists start using it in greater numbers – and drivers get the message they should avoid the Euston Road.

The obvious explanation for why TfL is going to all this trouble is that TfL is in charge of the Euston Road, and so can do what it likes there. Building cycle lanes on side nearby roads means working with the boroughs, and that’s inevitably more difficult and time consuming.

But if the long-term plan is to push cyclists via side roads anyway, it’s questionable whether all this disruption is worth it. A segregated cycle lane that stops without warning and leaves you fighting for space with three lanes of buses, lorries, and cabs is a cycle lane that’s of no use at all.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.