How London’s Nightlife Fought Back

The closure of music venues in central London is redefining the city’s nightlife.

Doomy headlines over the past year have heralded the decline of London’s nightlife as new development continue to close the city’s most iconic bars and clubs. Last September it was announced that Farringdon superclub Fabric was set to close after nearly 20 years as one of the capital’s leading after-dark venues. The news triggered hysteria among the press with Fabric one of the most prominent among a spate of closures over a decade that has claimed Soho’s Astoria, Metro and Madame Jojos, Plastic People, Turnmills and a swathe of locations in Kings Cross that meant everything for a generation of clubbers.



Luckily for London Fabric’s owners – backed by a string of celebrity activists – fought its closure and reopened its doors at the start of the year with a massive party but many places haven’t been so fortunate. With the development of unattainable (and often unoccupied) luxury flats and London’s Crossrail to blame for many closures it seems that the city’s youth culture has become a sacrificial lamb for London’s so-called progress. Heavy-handed policing and shifting licensing goalposts are also shuttering new ventures while the rapid gentrification of places like Dalston have seen epic struggles between the scene that gave these areas such buzz and new arrivals who now don’t fancy the noise.

Amy Lamé’s role is to champion the city’s nightlife and keep it among the world’s best

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan showed sympathy after his appointment last year, acting quickly to sign up a ‘nightlife tsar’ – a move pioneered by other European capitals. Charged with breathing fresh life into London’s so-called night-time economy – worth £26.3bn to London’s economy every year and employing one in eight London residents – Amy Lamé’s role is to champion the city’s nightlife and keep it among the world’s best. Which, with an estimated 50 percent of nightclubs and 40 per cent of music venues lost since 2008, means she’s got a major task on her hands

But while the closure of many historic central London venues has devastated ageing clubbers with patchy but fond memories, pioneering entrepreneurs, promoters and clubbers are helping establishing further-flung locations as after-dark destinations, redrawing the map of London’s nightlife.

The CLF Art Cafe [Block A Bussey Building]

The CLF Art Cafe, Rye Lane, Londres, Royaume-Uni

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Canavan's Peckham Pool Club

Canavan's Peckham Pool Club, Rye Lane, Londres, Royaume-Uni

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Corsica Studios

Corsica Studios, Elephant Road, Londres, Royaume-Uni

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Oval Space

Oval Space, 29-32 The Oval, Londres E2 9DT, Royaume-Uni

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Printworks, Surrey Quays Road, Londres, Royaume-Uni

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The Lion & Lamb

The Lion & Lamb, Fanshaw Street, Londres, Royaume-Uni


Bloc, Autumn Street, Londres, Royaume-Uni

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Metropolis, 234 Cambridge Heath Rd, Londres E2 9NN, Royaume-Uni

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Village Underground

Village Underground, 54 Holywell Ln, Londres EC2A 3PQ, Royaume-Uni

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Brilliant Corners

Brilliant Corners, 470 Kingsland Road, Londres E8 4AE, Royaume-Uni

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South London

As London’s twentysomethings make Peckham, New Cross and Brixton their own, the south has taken East London’s crown as the capital’s biggest buzz with new venues cropping up to replace those historic closures across the Thames.



In Peckham, the sprawling Bussey Building houses a vibrant schedule spanning art, music and film, Canavan’s pool bar provides a late-night retreat while under the railway arches of Peckham Rye station a series of new bars has transformed the area. And down the road at Elephant & Castle the Corsica Studios puts on one of the city’s most progressive music lineups with everything from Bjork to bashment.


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East London

That’s not to say East London has been caught napping. Hackney is the only borough not to see a loss in nightlife venues since 2001 and boasts some of London’s standout nights. The Oval Space sits by the disused gas works on Regents Canal and since opening in 2012 has put on cutting-edge nights, pop-up events and weekend-long festivals in a warehouse space that boasts one of London’s best soundsystems and a roof terrace with views across East London.


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It’s now building an empire with its owners opening live-music stronghold the Pickle Factory over the road in 2015. Down the road, the strip club Metropolis puts on some London’s best queer and alternative nights including the aptly named Savage each Saturday. Further east, the rapidly gentrifying Hackney Wick has emerged as a destination for out-of-towners to see in sunrise among the area’s vast warehouse spaces overlooking the Olympic Park.



Further afield

The city has also seen new territories springing up with big ambitions. The opening of the Printworks back in March put Canada Water on the map in what represents a major new launch for London. The 5,000-capacity supervenue is a cavernous arts space that hosts blockbuster international DJs and on-point day parties that have so far seen the likes of Caribou, Seth Troxler, Floating Points and Nina Kraviz play to sellout crowds. Further afield still, well-established scenes in Tottenham, Manor House and Wembley continue to put on underground parties in disused industrial spaces.



Losing iconic venues is hard to swallow and far greater support from authorities is needed in the fight against the bulldozers. But as tastes and subcultures shift and late-night pubs, pool halls and pop-up spaces replace ‘destination’ nightclubs it’s become clear that it’ll take more than a few closures to blunt London’s nightlife, whatever the headlines say.

Pictures courtesy Corsica Studios

Ben Olsen is a London-based journalist who loves live music, empty beaches and lazy brunches.