In the UK, we’re not making like Iggy Pop and going nightclubbing anymore. Yesterday it was announced that half of the nightclubs in Britain have taken down their glitter balls in the last decade – from 3,144 in 2005 to 1,733 this year. Are we staying in instead? I don’t know but we’re not going out. I mean, I am, obviously; but the rest aren’t.
“Oh, right,” you might think if you’re Milanese or Parisian. “I heard that Britain wanted to become a chilled-out ‘café culture’ and finally it’s been achieved.” Well you’d be wrong, signor and monsieur. Sure, Brits drink loads of coffee these days but half the time it’s to help them to get over their hangovers. So what’s happened? Where have all the nightclubs gone and who’s to blame?
Sadly clubs have become victims of the success they’ve helped bring to the areas in which they started and then flourished. Numerous formerly dodgy areas, from Hackney to Glasgow, have been transformed by the arrival of nightclubs and their queues of people dressed for a party despite the fact they’re waiting outside a disused warehouse or a crappy old basement. You don’t need me to tell you that slowly but surely these places are transformed into a going concern, that suddenly they’re front and centre of the map that everyone has in their minds when they think of where they’d like to go for a night out.
And then what? Other businesses get attracted to the magnet of the club and the bar that opens next door and the burger joint that serves both and flats nearby become a little more desirable and then and then and then… councils that forget that their nightclub-owning, risk-taking, crystal-ball-gazing regeneration wizards have done their job for them, sell land to developers whose residents would like an organic café rather than a nightclub at the end of their street and so the club, after having changed the area for the better 15 years previously, now has its licence shrunk to close by 1am or taken away altogether.
How sad and how boring. This all means that parts of London that I’d feel like a pioneer for visiting with some rave-hungry friends a decade ago is now a naff theme park of ironic diners, five-quid pints and council-sanctioned graffiti where a flat is the price of a four-bedroom house in a never-nasty, ever-naff, far nicer bit of town. Hackney, for the record, is nothing but hipster suburbia.
Other factors for club-shrink are mooted to be expensive drinks, the (almost decade-old) smoking ban and younger people feeling poor after taking university tuition fees on the nose. Really? Young people are always poor but only feel it if they’re constantly told it. And we’re all poorer without a place to go dancing. As for Iggy Pop, he’s got a show on that great bastion of anarchy, the BBC.
Robert Bound is Monocle’s Culture Editor.