Fabric Club and The War On Drugs

Islington Council have made the huge and controversial decision to revoke Fabric’s license. This course of action was taken as a result of the drug related deaths of two teenagers within the London club.


Here we investigate Islington Council’s decision, the ‘War on Drugs’ and what can be done to tackle the rising problem of young fatalities in established locations.

Fabric’s situation

With the hearing lasting for over 7 hours and continuing long into the night, the decision was made in the presence of members of the public, Metropolitan Police and fabric management to revoke the popular nightclub’s license.


It was said that security searches carried out by staff had been “inadequate and in breach of the licence”.

The club was founded in 1999 by Keith Reilly and Cameron Leslie and was voted, ‘World Number 1 Club’ twice by DJ Magazine. It regularly played host to globally recognised talents such as Duke Dumont and Chase & Status.

Diplo recently acknowledged fabric’s part in his international success, tweeting:

Despite a petition gaining around 150,000 signatures, the decision is yet to be overturned, leaving thousands unhappy, including prevalent names in politics.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan voiced his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the hearing:

“Clubbing needs to be safe but I’m disappointed that Fabric, Islington Council and the Metropolitan Police were unable to reach agreement on how to address concerns about public safety.”

“As a result of this decision, thousands of people who enjoyed going to Fabric as an essential part of London’s nightlife will lose out.”

“The issues faced by Fabric point to a wider problem of how we protect London’s night-time economy, while ensuring it is safe and enjoyable for everyone.”


Islington MP Emily Thornberry also expressed her disappointment in the verdict:

“Whilst the question of safety must remain paramount, I sincerely believe that the closure of Fabric cannot be the answer.”


The closure of Fabric couldn’t have come at a worse time for newly appointed Sadiq Khan. The launch of the 24 hour tube service and search for a Night Czar to represent London’s night time economy and activity almost seem redundant and ironic after Fabric’s recent end.


Adding to this, accusations of ulterior motives have intensified nationwide anger. ‘Operation Lenor’, was discovered after an investigation from the Independent exposed documents relating to Islington Council’s decision. An undercover police operation (Op Lenor) that took place in July found no hard evidence of drug use but instead was based around observations, which were still used in the council’s favour at Fabric’s hearing.

Interestingly, Islington Council has lost half of its funding in the past 6 years, with the 2015 spending review confirming cuts of £70 million over the next 4 years. This has led to accusations of drugs being used as a scapegoat in the closure of Fabric, when really the closure could have been premeditated, with the plan to replace Fabric with an establishment with lower tax.

Read the Official Statement from the club here about its closure:

“Fabric is extremely disappointed with Islington Council’s decision to revoke our license. This is an especially sad day for those who have supported us, particularly the 250 staff who will now lose their jobs. Closing fabric is not the answer to the drug-related problems clubs like ours are working to prevent, and sets a troubling precedent for the future of London’s night time economy.” 


As hoped, fabric have launched an appeal against its licence revoke, the logical next step in the fight for the UK’s Nightlife.

The ‘War on Drugs’ – The rise of Drug Related Deaths

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of deaths due to legal and illegal substances reached an all-time high last year, with 43.8 deaths per million population recorded.

However, a 2012 NHS (National treatment Agency for Substance Misuse) Report highlights the fact that ‘Club Drug’ users are a minority in treatment, with only 2% of over 18s in contact with services as a result of misuse.


All figures aside, it’s impossible to deny the level of destruction caused when recreational drug use goes wrong.

In recent years, it’s not just fabric that has been crippled by tragedies involving drugs. Boomtown Fair Music Festival in Hampshire for example, has an alarming track record of drug related fatalities in its 7 year history. In 2014, Lisa Williamson was found hanged after using drugs, in 2013 Oxfam Steward Ellie Rowe died as a result of taking Ketamine and in 2011 Deborah Jeffery had a fatal heart attack after taking ecstasy.

Just a few weeks ago, two festival goers died within hours of each other after taking drugs at Creamfields and Leeds Festival. T in The Park also sadly saw the drug related deaths of 3 people this year.


How are fatalities from substance misuse going to be reduced?

It’s a fact that the closure of one Nightclub won’t put an end to fatal drug use, leaving us with the question of what actually can be done to keep clubbers and festival goers safe.

Options explored by Islington Council involved the use of sniffer dogs and the lowering of BPM rates during club nights (Which many agree shows lack of understanding).

According to Ecstasy.org, there are some unwritten rules in circulation that help reduce the fatal risks of taking club drugs. Avoiding overcrowding, the availability of water and well ventilated spaces are all listed to prevent the overheating of people dancing in clubs.

Perhaps it’s time for authorities to actively help make spaces prone to inevitable drug use safer using these rules instead of shutting down these locations altogether, resulting in the migration of drug use to other establishments and the loss of much loved UK nightlife.

This topic will forever be the subject of mass debate, a debate that saw fabric pay the ultimate price.



Visit Fabric’s website HERE.

How do you feel about the closure of Fabric and how the ‘War on Drugs’ is being handled?

Text: Becky Warrington

Images: Fabric, Thump, Independent, The Guardian

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