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Fabric: With superclub’s future uncertain, we look back on 17 years in Farringdon

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 August 2016 | UPDATED: 10:03 24 August 2016

Fabric in 2016. Picture: Danny Seaton

Fabric in 2016. Picture: Danny Seaton

Archant

Farringdon club Fabric is only 17 years old but already has legendary status. With its future uncertain, James Morris asks why it evokes such feeling.

Fabric nightclub in Charterhouse Street. Picture: Polly HancockFabric nightclub in Charterhouse Street. Picture: Polly Hancock

Islington has a plethora of bars and restaurants, particularly in the Upper Street bubble. Nightclubs, on the other hand, are sparse.

But head south of the borough, to its very border with the City, and you will find Fabric.

It’s our sole big-hitting nightclub, widely accepted as one of the best in the world. Thousands hit its dancefloors every weekend.

Tragedy, however, means its future is unknown.

Islington Council has suspended its licence until further notice after two 18-year-old boys died of drug overdoses – one on June 25 and the other on August 6 – suffered there.

The fallout has continued ever since. After pressure from artists such as Groove Armada and Sasha – Fabric stalwarts since it opened in Charterhouse Street in 1999 – Sadiq Khan responded by calling for the council, police and club’s management “to find an approach that protects clubbers’ safety and the future of the club”.

If the Mayor of London stepping in sounds unusual, it’s because Fabric is seen as more than just a club.

Formerly a meat store for nearby Smithfields Market, Fabric opened in October 1999. It was just a month after another club, Home, opened in Leicester Square.

Fabric in Charterhouse Street under construction in the late 1990s. Picture: FabricFabric in Charterhouse Street under construction in the late 1990s. Picture: Fabric

“There was a massive amount of excitement,” Dave Swindells recalls.

He was nightlife editor of Time Out magazine between 1986 and 2009. Dave recalls 3,000 people queueing to get in on the opening night. It has a capacity of 1,500.

“People knew it was going to be something special.

“The difference is, other clubs went out of fashion and closed [Home shut in 2001]. It’s a fickle business.

Dance star Goldie was turned away by bouncers on Fabric's opening night in 1999 because the club was full. Picture: William Conran/PADance star Goldie was turned away by bouncers on Fabric's opening night in 1999 because the club was full. Picture: William Conran/PA

“Fabric remains successful because of its single-minded commitment to the quality of music, and the way it’s presented. It’s still one of the top three clubs in the world. That’s saying a lot for a club 17 years in. People haven’t tired of it.”

Craig Richards, a resident DJ at Fabric since 1999, explains why: “The secret to Fabric’s success is that it has never changed. It’s a modest brickwork labyrinth and has never been revamped in any way.

“But it’s one of the best environments in the world to experience the magic of electronic music. When Fabric opened, its mandate was to represent underground dance music in an environment that was operated professionally.

“And every effort was made to present the experience in the very best way imaginable. Security were friendly and welcoming; toilets were clean and comfortable; soundsystems across three rooms were second to none.”

Craig Richards, a resident DJ at Fabric since it opened in 1999. Picture: Danny SeatonCraig Richards, a resident DJ at Fabric since it opened in 1999. Picture: Danny Seaton

Dave, meanwhile, fears for London’s culture scene if the club closes.

“It would be a major, major loss if we were to lose Fabric. The capacity is 1,500 over three rooms. The actual numbers aren’t huge, but the bigger issue would be the loss of opportunity that London presents, whether to its nightlife or artists.

“I can’t believe it has come to this. The situation is not of the club’s making. It’s not their fault people take drugs before coming into the venue. It means Fabric is effectively guilty by association.

“This is an institution and needs to be protected.”

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