Monday, September 20, 2010

Club security - let a thousand warehouse parties bloom

As discussed here earlier this year, Shoreditch-based club Plastic People was threatened with losing its license, prompting a wave of consternation and protest. The club did re-open, and its famed dubstep/grime night FWD>> has restarted.

Now however some punters are complaining that it has lost its relaxed vibe as the club has been forced to impose tighter security in order to keep the police and Hackney Council happy - and therefore allow the club to remain open. Complaints have included heavy searches on the way into the club, scanning of IDs, and a security guard with a torch patrolling the dancefloor for drugs. Dan Hancox has written at his blog:

'Since it re-opened - and London's forward-thinking dance fans breathed a huge sigh of relief - there have been some good nights there, and FWD>> has returned to its spiritual home on Curtain Road. They seemed to forget to re-install the ventilation at first, making it a de facto bikram rave, but that's tolerable, for the unmatchable joys of that system, that room, that ambience. What isn't, is the conditions imposed on the license-holders in terms of security and crowd-control. Queuing for 15 minutes just to get outside for a breath of fresh(-ish) air or a cigarette is not the one. Nor are police hovering outside in a massive van every night, interrogating the crowd. Nor is airport-style security for the only fucking club in Shoreditch that NEVER HAS ANY TROUBLE'.

There's also discussion on this at Dissensus.

Frankly some of the complaints seem a bit naive. To paraphrase: 'I turned up at a venue with drugs in my pocket, knowing that it's under intense police scrutiny for alleged drug taking, and would you believe it I got banned?'.

But there is a serious point - as well as clubs losing their licenses altogether, clubs can be ruined by the authorities imposing such punitive conditions on them that the pleasure in going there is not worth the hassle of getting in.

I guess like many people I sometimes entertain the fantasy of winning the lottery and opening up a free space with parties and interesting social gatherings (naturally in this fantasy me and my mates do most of the DJing). But seriously, supposing it came true and you had no commercial/financial pressures, even then would you actually be allowed to keep such a place open without being forced to have a heavily policed regime and having to jump through a thousand hoops? It seems to me that whatever the intentions of club owners/promoters it is becoming increasingly difficult to put on nights without these restrictions, just as it seems virtually impossible to get permission to put on any kind of festival without a big fence around it. This obviously applies particularly in gentrifying areas like Shoreditch where clubs and bars have done their job in making the area safe/attractive to the middle classes, and are now being squeezed out as the same middle classes move into the area permanently and want it to quieten down a bit.

Still with recession and cuts, there is an increasing number of empty buildings in London. If licensed clubs are finding harder to survive, there's always the unlicensed option - let a thousand warehouse and railway arch parties bloom!

See also Drinking, Dancing and Fingerprinting

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