September 14, 2016
IS LONDON LOSING ITS CULTURAL EDGE? BY DUDLEY NEVILL-SPENCER - CEO BRAND REVOLUTION
Imagine if there was no Tinie Tempah and no Adele, at least not in our ears and on our screens, wonderful musicians bringing joy and pleasure to us all - not to mention multiple international awards and the cultural lift they give the UK overseas.
It may sound strange but that might just have been the case if the draconian laws currently shutting down our nightlife venues had been enforced when Adele and Tinnie were cutting their teeth on the club circuit.
Since 2008 no less than 50% of ALL club venues in London have shut - now that’s some figure. Many are because of the after-effects of the banking crisis, and a lot are due to the increase in rent due to our recession defying, Brexit defying rise in property value.
But there are also other reasons why clubs are being shut down. In many parts of the country Councils are falling to pressure from outside interest groups, revoking licenses from clubs who are doing absolutely everything they can to abide by the right laws and processes.
Fabric nightclub is one such case. The recent deaths at Fabric are shocking, but, and this might shock some people, people die taking drugs in Pubs, at Football stadiums, in their homes and at multiple Festivals. Fabric took its policing of banned substance VERY seriously. I know this, as an owner of a member’s bar myself, Lights of Soho, I know the effort, money and time Fabric must have spent on safety and search measures. Their approach to safety was significant for any venue.
The bad old days of venues being havens where dealers operated and the guvnor made money from it are long gone - and thank goodness for that.
So what was the real reason that Fabric was shut down, The Independent* did a nice article a few days ago about the Police' "operation Lenor" (get it – Fabric…Lenor?) Their suggestion was that a cash-strapped council used the Police as pawns and drug legislation as a constant, convenient excuse to harass and close the venue for good.
I can also understand if some Police wanted to shut down a big club on their patch - some - not all, would appreciate the quieter nights that would ensue. And there is no doubt unsavoury things can happen in clubs. However, others on the Force would recognise the value these places bring to our country both culturally and socially.
Clubs are places where the (mostly) young mix and join together to celebrate music, they promote "togetherness" and shun prejudice in a way which is quite unique, giving everyone a common focus to share and enjoy. They have areas which promote down time - "chill zones" - where you meet others, swap stories, share and make friendships, fall in love, create ideas and just celebrate life.
But let's forget about the punter for the moment, let's focus on the artists - let's go back to Tinie and Adele. Both of them cut their teeth performing in London clubs, Adele in Madame Jojo's - pretty much opposite my venue in Soho's Brewer st - and Tinie in multiple clubs such as Jalouse (which now houses TAPE nightclub - a MASSIVE supporter of new Talent) in Hanover Sq.
My PR agency, Brand Revolution, represented Jalouse when Tinie performed there and we even ended up taking him “on tour” with Jalouse to the Cannes film festival (to perform at VIP club) and Ibiza (performing at Blue Marlin).
Unknown in France at the time, it took a lot to persuade the French club owner - Jean Roch - to allow him to perform. Of course when Tinie actually got on-stage he completely blew them away and was the best of the performers at The festival.
Without these places to support emerging artists, without audiences to give them feedback, household names that roll off our tongues today, might not exist. Everybody wants you when you are a global name, but it's the clubs that that stump up to pay you and take a chance on "the next big thing" when you are nascent, when you don't have a deal or even a big following - and they do this for one reason. They do this as it pays them to pick artists that their crowd will like, regardless of whether they have a label or money behind them. They simply support good talent.
"Lighthouse venues", like Fabric also attract international acts and tourists and give a massive platform to developing artists. If these venues continue to be shut down, the effect on the U.K's cultural output, on our standing in the world, on our attractiveness to tourists and business that engage with U.K culture are severely under threat.
So how about this for an idea. First, let's recognise the value clubs bring to us culturally and socially and ensure its difficult to shut down venues. Let's classify them as venues of "culture" and in high rent areas give them a discount on council rates and VAT, what about a 50% reduction, sounds crazy? Well if we don’t do something like that then all clubs in all cities will end up like the Hacienda in Manchester, which is now a lovely block of 130 apartments.
It's also exactly what the Government has done in Berlin. Yep, that's right, Berghain **, a massive industrial techno club has been given the same status as other businesses of high culture such as the Theatres and Museums.
It’s been a massive battle, but it seems that in Berlin they realise that these venues are places where people are truly entertained, and that they encourage, fuel and build culture and cohesion within their city. They help make Berlin what it is today.
So Mr Khan, you strike me as a pretty cool chap who wouldn’t mind the odd 2-foot shuffle on the dance floor; I would gladly be the first venue to trial a Berlin type system - my details are below.
For the foreseeable future however, it seems we are moving down this path of the gentrification and destruction of the culture that has made us such an attractive city.
For those who don’t want to see London’s historic culture diluted; see you on the dance floor this weekend.
Dudley Nevill-Spencer CEO and Founder, Brand Revolution & The Influencer Group