On the 22nd October, after an 18 months which nearly flatlined the nightlife industry, news broke that planning permission had been granted to turn Printworks into a hybrid redevelopment of flats, construction offices and retail outlets. The announcement foresees the extinction of one of the UK and Europe’s most prestigious clubs – and is set to begin this year.
Open since 2017, the huge former printing factory has quickly become an established member of the London club scene, known for its huge events and lineups that regularly draw in over 6000 people. The club is an essential part of creative youth culture not just in London, but also the UK, ranking at number 7 In DJ Mag’s top 100 clubs worldwide in 2021.
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A petition launched by Will Gooddy last year called on the dance community to save Printworks, and quickly amassed over 8000 signatures, but the development looks like it’s still set to go ahead. The petition rightly pointed out that “London has lost almost a quarter of its nightclubs since the pandemic started. There are 198 venues operating as nightclubs in the capital, the fewest since the mid 90s, according to figures from the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA). That is a fall of 22 per cent from 256 in 2019, before Covid struck. Industry bosses fear London risks losing its reputation as one of the world’s premier clubbing capitals”.
It seems this may be true: issues between developers and London nightclubs are nothing new. Just this month across the river, Tottenham-based club The Cause closed its doors for good, citing its fears about the flats being built around the club as instigating the end of the venue “in its current format”. A widely-loved and attended venue, this was met with shock, dismay and lingeringly, resentment.
Think back to 2016, too, when fabric was rapidly shut down. With the iconic venue’s licence revoked after 2 drug-related deaths and the future of the club almost sealed, a campaign (#savefabric) just about brought it back from the brink of permanent closure. At the time, campaigners argued that closing a venue such as fabric would be an incredibly short-sighted response to a complex problem – one which we seem to still be facing.
Printworks currently has events planned through to May 2022, with huge line-ups reflecting its status as a leading nightspot in London’s club scene. If venues of this magnitude and cultural importance can’t escape the hands of developers, the smaller venues in which the London underground scene exists are destined to succumb sooner or later – but we shouldn’t have to fight to keep them alive. The London clubbing scene, as a key component of what makes London a cultural capital, should be preserved as a matter of urgency: before more venues are closed down before our very eyes.
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