Last weekend Tunnel Dancers bid their farewells as the intimate basement officially opened their doors for the very last time with a closing party. Dalston’s lovable neighborhood club closed due to the ever-increasing developments of luxury flats in the area and the resulted tightening of “noise” controls- a phenomenon that is all too familiar by now.
The official announcement last April came during the time when Sadiq Khan vowed to save the city’s “iconic club scene”. Khan said he supports the agent of change principle, which would make developers building properties near clubs and bars responsible for soundproofing, instead of venues having to burden the cost. He also mentioned existing plans of appointing a night time mayor. These two main actions are indeed the right moves forward to protect the club scene, which fall under points 3 (Agent of Change) and 4 (Night Time Economy Champions) of the manifesto put together by the Night Life Matters campaign, displayed on their website:
1: Crimes Committed Against Venues, Not By Them
As is the case for shopping centres, opera houses and football grounds, night time operators shouldn’t be unfairly targeted for the actions of their patrons. Policy makers should pay consideration to individual responsibility rather than simply shutting down venues as a kneejerk reaction.
2: More Flexible Licensing
Britain already has legally accepted 24 hour licensing – yet it exists in very few places. A global nation and cities need to be 24 hour and our professional and much loved clubs and bars should be provided with far more flexible licensing hours throughout the day and night. Contrary to fears presented when 24 hours were passed, serious crime has decreased in Britain and a recent study by the Institute of Economic Affairs showed that alcohol consumption has dropped by 26% in licenced premises and is down 17% overall since the Licensing Act came into effect in 2003.The number of licence conditions required (which can exceed over 100 for a single venue) should be reduced and we should permit staggered closing times for venues as opposed to a single closing time.
3: Agent Of Change
Recent changes to planning laws are a step in the right direction, but until we have an Agent Of Change principle established in the UK, clubs, bars and music venues will still be at risk. We’re asking government to consider a new law which would make developers responsible for soundproofing new properties when building near to existing venues.
4:Night Time Economy Champions
The night time industry acts not only as a cultural beacon, but as a driver of economic growth, employment and regeneration both locally and nationally. We need Night Time Economy Champions at all levels of government who recognise these benefits and can help shape legislation more responsibly as a result.
5: Fair Representation
According to a 2012 study by the Intergenerational Foundation, the average age of a councillor in England is 60; fewer than 5% are under 35; 96% are white and only 31% are female. We desperately need more balanced representation when deliberating about the future of the UK’s nightlife. Young people, those who understand the realities and value of club culture, need to have their voices heard by local government.
Nightlife Matters is “a grass-roots nationwide movement, promoting nightculture, raising awareness and building a collective of supporters across the country” (#NightLifeMatters). The movement already has a strong support base made up of DJs such as Carl Cox and Seth Troxler, events such as Toi Toi Musik, clubs such as fabric. They are continuing their efforts to grow supporters across the industry and beyond, from club owners to clubbers. The website details ways to contribute to the campaign, from donating to signing a petition (which only takes about 5 seconds), which also allows anyone to write directly to MPS and councillors.
Although positive steps have already been put in place to save the city’s vital nightlife, the recent closure of clubs such as Dance Tunnel goes to show that the scene is still very much under threat, and that support and action are necessary “to make our voices heard”. If other modern European cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam are able to support their necessary and thriving night-lives, why can’t London do the same?