Who Killed the Night? | DJ Annie Mac on the Death of Club Culture

Who Killed the Night? | DJ Annie Mac on the Death of Club Culture


Sounding huge on your radio
this evening. I’m Annie Mac, BBC music broadcaster
and DJ. In my teens, I discovered club culture, fell in love, and
since then have been lucky enough to make a career in nightclubs. I love the way clubs
celebrate diversity, bringing people from all different
backgrounds together with one shared,
collective love – the music. The UK are pioneers of
dance culture. We are looked to all over the world
for our underground music, and if it wasn’t for the UK’s clubs,
we wouldn’t have genres like jungle, garage or grime. Clubbing in cities
like Berlin or Amsterdam is booming, but in the UK, over the last
ten years, we’ve lost half our nightclubs. I want, I NEED to know why these
places I love, that have shaped who I am,
are disappearing. What’s going to be here?
Commercial… What does that mean?
Which will be shops. Why are our clubs closing? A lot of it is just to do with
property development.
What do we want from our clubs? The DIY culture,
there’s a bit of a punk spirit
about wanting to club my way. And is anyone doing anything
to help save our nightlife? Despite the challenges, you know,
the future is definitely bright.
I spoke to clubbers to find out what
they think and what they want from their nightclubs. How often do you go clubbing? Every weekend, like Friday and
Saturday, every weekend.
What would get you into a club? If I’d had a couple of drinks
and the mood is right.
I like dancing.
I like having a good time.
And the good atmosphere for me is
you’ve had a few drinks
and then bam. Have you heard about clubs in London
closing? And is that something that bothers you or concerns you
at all?Well, I heard about Fabric closing, but I know it’s reopening
now, so that’s…
I’ve only been there once. Fabric is well known
around the world.
Councillors in London have voted to close the well-known
nightclub Fabric.
Fabric is one of the most famous
clubs in the capital. Its closure and subsequent reopening
made the decline of our clubs national news. Police had called for its licence to
be revoked after two teenagers
at the club died
as a result of taking drugs.
It played a special part
in my career, so there’s no better place to start
my journey than Fabric itself. I remember distinctly, about,
it would have been, what, eight, nine years ago now, coming to the top of these stairs
and seeing the first-ever Annie Mac Presents logo being projected onto there,
and feeling so excited. You were the first club to host one
of my nights ever, in Room Three. And… And I just remember
the feeling of just absolute, like, excitement and also, like,
wow, we’re real. It’s legitimate. We’re in Fabric
and there’s our logo. Wow! After a big public campaign, the council and police have allowed
Fabric to reopen, subject to a number of strict
new conditions. Room One. The legendary Room One. Talk us through some of the
restrictions that you’ve had to put in place to get this room open
again.So, we’ve got over-19s. We’ve got a new ID-scanning system. So although beforehand it was no ID,
no entry, it’s just now that gets…
That gets logged. For those people who do abuse
the drug regulations within the building,
you’ll have their ID on file. Yeah.So you’ll be… You know, they’ll never be able to re-enter
the club.Correct.Yeah. Were you in any way equipped for
the huge outpouring of support and love for this club that came
from the general public? The level of support
was the key, sort of,
driver to us being able to get
through this last,
you know, few months. Fabric may have started
the conversation, and I was outspoken in my support
of it, but it got me thinking – what’s happening to our clubs
across the country? In 2005, there were 3,144 clubs
in the UK. Now there’s 1,733. Take the city of Peterborough,
for instance. In 2015, it lost three
of its leading nightclubs without explanation. I’m here to
meet Amanda and her mates, who struggle to find
anywhere to party. So we’re here. I heard loads of clubs closed
here a couple of years ago. What happened? There were quite a few that went –
a few of the big ones that went.
Then all of the smaller ones
started closing.
There’s, sort of, a couple of clubs,
but they don’t get as busy
as what they used to any more. I think young people are tending to
stay at home more now than go out.
You’ll walk in and it’s just empty. It’s like so much pop music. But you’d think if there’s clubs
still open that everyone would be going there.
Yeah.Yeah.But they’re not. ALL:No.
Why do you think that is? They’ve stopped playing the music…
Yeah...that they used to. Like all the bashment.Yeah. There’s not, like, diversity
any more.
Where do you go now? If you’re going
to go out on a big night out, where do you go?Usually if we do
want to go out,
we’ll go out of town.
I’ve paid for a taxi before,
there and back, and it’s cost me
£100 both ways…
Whoa. Just to go out. But that’s
the reality of it, because
it’s so bad here, we’re having to
go elsewhere.
Do you feel like you’re missing out
on, kind of, club culture?Yeah. And on a community of people… I see people with Snapchats
and stuff all the time.
So how often would you…would you
come out on a night out in Peterborough? I refuse to go out now
in Peterborough at all.
Unless we’re going out of town,
I won’t go out now.
Because the last few times I’ve been
out, how early have I left?
Literally.It’s literally
been after about an hour.
A waste of my time and my money.
OK, well, as we’re here… Amanda,
you’ve actually come out.
This is a big deal. So shall we go and see
what there is to offer here… We shall.Let’s...at Solstice?
Let’s go. We can do. Take me out, ladies. Take me out.
Let’s go! # Oppa Gangnam Style # Gangnam Style
Op, op, op, op… # Welcome to Peterborough.
Whoo! # Gangnam Style
Op, op, op, op… # ALL:Yay! Oh. Wahey!Whoo! I’ve already got mine, darling.
Come on, girls. Shots, shots, shots,
shots, shots, shots, shots. Cheers. MUSIC: Macarena
by Los Del Rio # So, baby, if you want me… # Come on, sing it! # You’ve got to show me love… # Whoo! I mean, it was fun. You know, there
was lots of people there. They were having a laugh,
but it was so dated. It was like… It was like
my auntie Carmel’s wedding. They did the Macarena. I haven’t seen that in about
20 years. Erm… So, limited. Very, very limited in terms of
musical diversity, in terms of what I’ve seen
in Peterborough tonight. I totally get where the girls
are coming from. There’s nothing there for them. Girls like Amanda do want to party – they just don’t have the tunes
to suit their musical needs, and I fear they’ll miss out
on creating memories that will remain with them forever. My story of clubbing is about
the best first date I’ve ever had,
when we ended up at the Mink Club
till seven in the morning.
Going back 15 years, in the
legendary club Sidewinder,
in Milton Keynes,
at the Sanctuary, 5,000 people…
Going to Tribal Sessions at Sankeys
Soap back in 2003 changed my life.
The legendary Danny Tenaglia sets.
It was like a door had got opened
to another universe in terms
of what was…
It’s 4am, the DJs
and the crowd are at one.
It was just an amazingly special
moment for me.
Clubbing is still so important
to people, so what is going on? Why are our clubs dying?
I phoned Peter Marks, CEO of the Deltic company, who look
after 59 nightlife venues outside London, including Oceana, Liquid, Envy, and Pryzm, and he explained why all the clubs
are closing. Peter, hi. It’s Annie. I just wanted to ring and ask you
some questions for this film I’m making.‘OK.’ Why do you think that there has been
so many club closures, so many iconic clubs, in London,
specifically, and beyond? ‘Perhaps Fabric is a bit different, ‘but you look at the list ‘and a lot of it is just to do with
property development.
‘If you look at where some of those
iconic clubs, Bagley’s, etc, etc,
‘have gone, they’re not there
any more. They’ve been knocked down.
‘And, outside of London,
it’s nothing like that,
‘but there are towns that struggle, ‘and they struggle to hold
a nightclub, but they also struggle
‘to hold pubs, bars,
cinemas and shops.
‘And it’s a wider issue
for those towns.’
Listening to Peter makes me realise
this is true for Peterborough. The town is just not busy enough.
I also wanted to ask him about the council’s role
in supporting nightclubs. ‘I think councils have overlooked
the importance
‘of the night-time economy
as a whole,
‘and that includes anything open
from six o’clock in the evening
‘to six in the morning, ‘so it doesn’t matter
if it’s casual dining,
‘or cinema, or bowling,
or night club, or bar, or pub.
‘The key is it’s a £66 billion
industry
‘that employs 400,000 people, ‘and you lose your night-time
economy at your peril.’
I approached the three different
councils to talk to me about nightclub closure for this
film, but all of them declined to be interviewed, so, instead,
I thought I’d head to my old favourite clubbing haunt
King’s Cross, home of iconic clubs Bagley’s,
The Cross, The Key and Canvas, which played host to some of the
best nights I’ve ever had in London. But this is what these clubs
look like now. And that was The Cross.
The Cross was down, down underneath the arches here.
Yeah.And as you walk through. All changed.All changed now, yes. So, OK, what’s going to be here? What is replacing all these amazing,
iconic clubs? So, at the moment, it’s…it’s
down for commercial, so…
What does that mean?
Which will be shops. And you used to come here raving? Yes, when I was 18, 19,
I used to come here, when I was…
Yeah.Many a good night.
To the original Bagley’s nights.
To the original Bagley’s nights,
yeah.
They had, like, happy hardcore nights and jungle
nights and all sorts, didn’t they? It was all hardcore.Yeah.
All hardcore music, yeah. Yeah, yeah. ‘Ardcore.Some really,
really good nights. Yeah.
Wow. Wow, so this was… This was…a main room.
A main room, yes. Where the staircase that you came
down from the mezzanine floor…
Yeah.And as you’d come up, the DJ’s
booth was at this side of the room.
OK. As someone who came here and
has a lot of happy memories here, as a clubber, how do you feel about
these clubs being knocked down and opened up as high-end shops? Erm… I mean, it’s a shame
to see Bagley’s go,
which obviously was such
an iconic club, but it’s time…
It’s moving on with the area. But what about our clubs, Pat? Mmm, yeah…There was about six of
them and they’re all gone.
Despite being an ex-raver, Pat still
doesn’t think the redevelopment of Bagley’s is a bad thing,
but I’m not so sure. It was venues like this that were a
rite of passage for London clubbers. Whole music genres
were cultivated here, and a whole generation of young
people found a place to belong. If these clubs are closed down, where do we go to find
our home from home? Who is to blame for these club
closures? And do people even care? I think the club closures
are a very bad thing.
The closures, they haven’t really,
um… They haven’t affected me.
I think the clubs are closing
because the councils
keep wanting to, like, fucking make
flats everywhere.
After visiting Bagley’s, it’s pretty
obvious that property developers also have a role to play in
the demise of our clubs, so it’s time to confront one. Will, you represent the real estate
property developers. A lot of people are pointing their
fingers at property developers for the closure of clubs.
Are you killing our clubs? No. We’re not. Our developers like
to create spaces where you can live,
work, but, most importantly, play. They’re not going to earn any money
if no-one wants to live there.
They don’t like creating
sterile boxes.
They want to create areas
that actually
invigorate the community. How does it work when a nightclub
gets put in the hands of a property developer?
If something’s going on in a club that shouldn’t be going on, the police refer it back to the
council to discuss their licence.
The council decides if they want
to revoke the licence.
If they do revoke the licence,
the club becomes space to develop.
Then a developer comes in
and develops it.
There’s no collusion between
a local authority or a developer.
It’s just land.‘I understand
Britain needs more housing,
‘but I feel like Will was spinning
me a PR line. I just don’t get it. ‘How is it OK for
property developers ‘to build flats in areas
with great clubs, ‘areas that are culturally rich,
only for the tenants to complain ‘about noise so the council
come in and close the clubs? ‘Isn’t the vibrant nightlife
what brings people to these ‘areas in the first place?’ Despite councils making
licensing harder, and property developers
sending in the bulldozers, people do still want to party, and are finding alternatives
to traditional club nights. For some, that means putting on
their own illegal events. I think people like going to illegal
raves because it gives them
the option that mainstream clubs
won’t give them now.
If you wanted to go to a psytrance
night, where would you go?
Illegal raves can be dangerous. The parties are unregulated,
there’s no security, no safety measures put in place. Other promoters are finding ways
around late-night licensing by throwing raves that only happen
in the daytime. And pioneering websites
like Boiler Room, who went from a start-up streaming
service to global broadcasters of underground DJs and events, with
audiences of up to 400,000, are looking to the future for an
alternative clubbing experience. One of the things I’m fascinated
about with Boiler Room is this recent statement
that you’ve made about… about venturing
into the world of VR. So, we’re opening a venue in London which is completely built
and designed from the ground up
to lend itself to filming in 360 and creating virtual
reality experiences.
It’s really interesting to us
because we’ve built everything
in the last six years using a webcam
or a version of a webcam,
erm, and we focus so much on, like, creating a genuine connection between the person
watching what’s happening
halfway across the world
and the actual event.
Can you define what a VR experience
is when it comes to consuming clubbing through VR? I think the absolute ideal
is you can put a headset on, erm,
and suddenly you can be standing
next to the DJ booth
when a record gets rewound
and the whole crowd’s going crazy.
You can turn around and see people
side-by-side with you.
If I’m watching a…a rapper, I
don’t want to see them on the stage.
I want to see them
shoulder-to-shoulder with me
and feel, like, part of that energy. I guess taking a lot of the
fundamentals of what we do
with Boiler Room broadcasts is
always trying to make it feel
intimate, engaging, and provide that
deeper, sort of, connect…
That moment for people watching with
a headset on is going to get far
more realistic in the next year,
or two, or three.
At a point in the future, the possibility is you will be a
full avatar human being in the club, able to dance…
and touch other people. I’m just… It blows my mind. One of the reasons I have always
found clubbing so magical is the collective experience of the
dance floor and the diversity of the people
that you will find there. What happens if people
stop going out and only experience clubbing online? Is that really the future of
clubbing? I’m just not sure VR clubbing can
ever give you that same feeling of belonging, especially if you
belong to the margins of popular culture, and you’re
looking for a safe space to be yourself. Some guys were telling us that they
get on their Megabus from Glasgow,
and then they get in drag and
their face paints and everything,
and then they arrive at the club. And then they do the club through
till 4am,
then they get the first Megabus
back to Glasgow,
and that gives me such joy,
because that’s such a, kind of,
commitment to that one club night
that means so much to them.
That, for me,
that’s what it’s about.
# We are family # Get up, everybody
and sing… # Sink The Pink is an alternative
club night that sells out six events a year. It’s a visual feast and an LGBT
institution. Do you think Sink The Pink
provides a safe space or, like, a haven for people to find and
cultivate their identity? We started it out of a lacking of
needing that.
2008, myself and my best friend Glyn
were both in jobs that were a bit
mundane and we wanted something
that was our own,
and we’d go out to clubs and we
never felt like we’d found our home,
so we’d go out in Soho for him
to snog boys,
and then we’d go to straight places
for me to snog boys.
And we were like, “Why can’t we go somewhere
where we can both snog boys?!”
Eight years ago,
Amy and best friend Glyn, on their first night at Bethnal
Green’s working man’s club. Now, they fill 3,000-capacity
venues. I think there’s something really
British about the way that we all do
drag – it’s like dressing up silly. And it’s not like boys dressing up
as girls or girls dressing up
as boys, it’s just everyone
messing about a bit.
How do you feel about the clubbing
landscape in general right now, as someone who has created
a club night from scratch? The DIY culture, that always,
kind of,
comes through at times of recession, and there’s a bit of a punk spirit
about wanting to club my way.
Like, I want to do it MY way. And maybe bigger clubs weren’t
providing that level of…
..of punk spirit, or heart. # Oh, young hearts # Run free… # This punk spirit proves people
do still want to go out and enjoy the night, but in their own way. Clubbing is still happening… in railway arches, in factories,
in boats and basements, but these spaces are
challenging to run. Will Harold is a promoter who knows just how hard it is
to put on these events. Talk me through the basic conditions
that a promoter will have to meet in order to put a party on. Number one, you’ve got to find
a space.
Does it have fire exits? Does it have power?
How close are the residents?
And then once you’ve found a space, it’s, how big is it? Because
depending on the size of it,
depends on the licensing
application.
Once you’ve done all of that and
you’ve got a venue on a particular
date, then you’ve got to try and
book some talent on that date.
If you manage to sell the tickets,
which is, again,
quite a tough thing to do,
then you’ve got to operate it
and you’re being watched by the
council, the local residents,
the environmental health,
the police, fire, all these kind of
different bodies – you’ve got a lot
of people to keep happy
and people might get hurt –
that’s your fault.
If there’s a problem and you have
to evacuate the building and
you haven’t done it properly,
that’s your fault.
Being a promoter, you’re the last
person to get paid,
and you’re the first person
that gets blamed.
The licensing, the bar staff,
the cleaning, the venue hire…
In short, don’t do it. You’d be fucking mental! Would you rather go to a small,
like, intimate club, or a really big one?Erm, probably
small and intimate
because I’m quite a… I’m not
really a big fan
of the big clubbing vibe. I think the gay clubs are… I feel a bit more included in and… Interesting.It’s, like, safer.
Like, just out to have a good time.
And do you have enough places that
satisfy your musical needs? Not at all. Not at all.
There needs to be more grime clubs.
More grime clubs, OK? I’ve been talking to clubbers, and it seems larger clubs just
aren’t offering people what they want any more. People meet
on social media. They want to party in intimate
venues with the right music, and they’d rather spend their
hard-earned cash… Techno. I hate techno...on unique
events and experiences.
My conversations have shown me that
people DO still want to party, and that clubbing is definitely in
crisis across the UK. So what are the people in charge
doing about it? The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has put someone in charge of protecting nightlife
in the capital – Amy Lame. I’m hoping she can save not only
London’s clubs, but that what she’s doing
in the capital could reignite the rest of the
country’s nightlife. Amy Lame, the new Night Czar of
London, the first-ever appointed Night Czar
of London. Thank you for having me to your new
swanky office, City Hall. Thanks, Annie. So, you’re really experienced. You’ve been running your own club
night for 21 years. Tell me more about that. I’ve spent most of my adult life on the front line of the night-time economy. The one and only, the living legend that is Annie Mac
is in the house.
We’re very excited to have her. I’ve also been at the front line of
saving a beloved venue,
the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which, you know, we’re still trying to
save.
So I think I bring a unique
perspective that really comes from
the night-time economy. We’ve heard so much about club
closures, these iconic, especially, kind of, dance music nightclubs
closing, and one of the things that I have,
kind of, come away feeling slightly worried about
is the amount of redevelopment that happens, and then the, kind of, lack of a blanket rule for councils to have to put back in what the
redevelopment takes away, in terms of the culture. So, Agent of Change is a bit of
legislation that Sadiq Khan has
promised to put into place,
and what it means is that
those new builds, those developers will be responsible
for soundproofing,
for designing those new flats to be mindful of the culture
that’s going on around them.
So it means that they’ll be
soundproofed, they’ll be…
Perhaps it means just putting the
bedroom on the other side of,
you know, not facing directly over
the club or the restaurant
or whatever it might be. We know Agent of Change works
in Australia,
where this legislation’s
been tested.
We know that it’s also worked for
Ministry of Sound.
What would you say about the,
kind of, state of clubland today? Despite the challenges, you know, the future is definitely bright. The future is bright. Will Harold, who I spoke with
earlier, is about to open the doors on a 5,000-capacity venue
in south London. The idea is this is a kind of
a new concept
and an experiment in terms of
venues, and trying to…
We’d put on parties and that side
of things,
but also there’s going to be
things…
Theatre and other kinds of music
and experiential things and some
corporate events and everything, from ice rinks to ballet to theatre
and all kinds of things,
so the whole point is to do
lots of different things.
I think that the days of a club or
a theatre are quite old and just
moved on. I mean, I can’t imagine
trying to sustain somewhere like
this on a day or two a week
doing parties.
It just wouldn’t work. So I think
that the way things have moved now,
it’s about multiple uses, and
people looking for experience,
and a purpose-built space isn’t
necessarily that exciting.
I think coming into something like
this and creating an environment for
people to enjoy music or film or
art or whatever those things are,
they take on a different context
when you’re in somewhere like this.
There’s a few things that you’ve
said that seem really key in terms of the future of, of, of clubbing
and of our nightlife. One is that kind of adapting to
what people need.Yeah. And two is the, kind of, putting
back into the club and, kind of, being creative about
how you do that. Would you agree? We’ve had to become more and more
creative and to try and
work harder to find better spaces
and to survive and adapt,
and I think that the parties
get bigger and more special,
and we find new places like this, and, erm, yeah, long may that
continue.
On this journey, I’ve met the clubbers looking for
somewhere to go… Cheers!..the people closing the
clubs and the ones trying to
reignite the club scene.
Yes, lots of our clubs are closing. Club scenes make places
culturally rich, and that brings in money. Property developers then gentrify
the places that were once edgy and cool. But are there any real bad guys
here, or is this just the cycle of
city life? Amy Lame has given me some hope
that people in power do care about our nightlife and how central
it is to our culture. Clubbing is such an important, brilliant and vibrant part of
my life, and I know millions of people
feel the same way. That’s why I know that it won’t die. Yes, it’s changing,
yes, it’s evolving, but people will always
find a way to party.