Light at the end of the (dance) tunnel?

Other | Monday 5th March 2018 | Jake

133 unlicensed raves were reported to the authorities in the capital in 2017, almost double the figure of 70 from 2016. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when one considers that from 2005 – 2015 almost half of London’s nightclub venues closed, with a further 3% of venues closing across the UK since 2015.

Illegal raves are a beast the government helped to create, now the chickens are home to roost it is high-time for a fresh approach from the authorities to the nightlife scene in our capital.

While the risks attached to these unlicensed, unregulated events will no doubt be at the forefront of the government’s mind when choosing how to react to the sharp rise, it would be narrow-minded and short-sighted if they failed to address the reasoning behind the spurt of illegal raves.

In a little over three years those looking for a night out in London have had to cope with the closure Plastic People, Passing Clouds and Dance Tunnel, legendary venues that many clubber would find there way to every weekend. Before that, in 2013, Cable was shut down to accommodate redevelopment work.

Where it went wrong

It is redevelopment of a different kind, however, that is having the biggest effect on the declining health of London’s nightclub’s. Rebranding, the concept of redeveloping an area’s image, aka gentrification, has been used as a battering ram to raze strips of clubs and bars. Developers are buying up all the property they can in areas famed for their nightlife (Shoreditch, Dalston etc.) and setting up luxury or affordable (apparently the new way of saying unaffordable) living spaces for the moneyed millennial.

Often these areas are sold on the basis that they are at the heart of a buzzing, happening scene; the great irony being that these properties are in fact ripping the heart out of the scene. Incredibly little is being done to halt this, local government cherishes the increased tax money newcomers bring with them, while less crime is also welcome.



However, while patting themselves on the back for a job well done, councils largely ignored the fallout of ravers with no venue to rave at, did they imagine overpriced pints at pubs would be a suitable alternative? The humble pub could never replace the booming sound-system of a club, even with an extended license allowing for later closing times. People need a space in the dark to dance on the weekends in much the same way people need a pint and a roast on a Sunday.

Punitive measures have been taken on the remaining clubs in London, leading to rising prices in entrance fee and drinks, a massive factor in the draw towards illegal raving, where drink and drugs flow cheaply. Furthermore, the heavy policing of legal events has put off many people. You’re more than likely to be standing outside Fabric for over an hour in the rain because some poor bloke is getting his armpits swabbed by a swat team.

What now?

People do drugs, people will do drugs at clubs, people will do drugs just about anywhere. Limiting the places they are able to do them can be counterproductive and leave users in grave danger: a person overdosing at an illegal rave is far more likely to die than one overdosing at a nightclub in Dalston.

We are reaching a sliding doors moment, should councils choose to follow the money then London is at risk of becoming a cultural wasteland, and illegal raves will prosper. Eradicating illegal raving, meanwhile, raises more problems than it solves. Authorities need to work together to recapture a safe, enjoyable nightlife scene in London.