It was the czar wot won it. Well not quite, but Fabric’s successful appeal against Islington Council’s decision to revoke its licence won’t have done London’s first ever night czar’s reputation any harm at all.
Amy Lamé negotiated with the council, the Metropolitan Police and Fabric in her first week in the job, and earned praise from London Mayor Sadiq Khan for her part in securing the Farringdon nightspot’s survival. But the #savefabric campaign was very much a collective effort, spearheaded by an incredible fundraising drive from its supporters, who helped generate more than £325,000 towards the club’s legal costs.
Though the relief and joy over its survival is understandable, the deeply tragic events that brought us here must not be forgotten. Ryan Browne and Jack Crossley, both 18, died after taking drugs at Fabric, leading the authority to conclude the nightclub had a “culture of drug use”, which staff were “incapable of controlling”.
Thankfully, a compromise was reached after the venue accepted its existing procedures relating to drugs were insufficient. And though some of the new conditions, such as banning 18-year-olds, sound questionable (are people really that much less likely to take Class A drugs at 19 than 18?), others, including ID scanners, enhanced searching controls and the employment of a new security company, appear perfectly sensible. Now it’s up to Fabric to uphold its end of the bargain.
Glance across to the festival industry however, and there is evidence of what can be achieved by a more pragmatic, less heavy-handed approach. This summer, in a bold and groundbreaking move, Secret Garden Party and Kendal Calling piloted the forensic testing of drugs onsite via the multi-agency safety testing (MAST) facility, conducted by The Loop charity and brokered in agreement with the local police and council. Results were encouraging – a quarter of the 200 people who had their drugs tested decided to dispose of them when they found out what was actually in them – and it is likely the initiative will be rolled out at further events in 2017.
The scheme has also been utilised at a number of nightclubs, offering a resource to focus on harm reduction – a more realistic goal, you would think, than stopping drugs entering venues entirely. As has been said: if you can’t stop drugs getting into a prison, what chance do you have keeping them out of nightclubs or a festival site?
The priority must surely be to help prevent further fatalities – and MAST testing provides plenty of food for thought.