DEFENDING OUR CULTURE - Panel / by ernestoleal01@gmail.com

Photo by Andrew Grainger and Nick Ensing

Photo by Andrew Grainger and Nick Ensing

A huge thank you to all of panelists and participating photographers whocame to the PV launch night on Weds 3rd May at Red Gallery/Kamio.

The Panel discussion established the following:

  • Licensing laws need to be challenged in a major way if the night time industry and our culture are to survive.
  • Clubs and community spaces need to work together and have a common approach if we are to win and survive.
  • Familiar stories are being experienced nationwide - similar patterns of development, the criminalization of our culture and spaces, followed by difficulties with licensing, closure, developers…
  • There is a common thread indicating there has been a sustained attack on culture and any form cultural dissent in the past decades.

Keith Reilly (Fabric), Mike Grieve (Sub Club), Annmarie Davies (Passing Clouds), Winstan Whitter (4 Aces, Hackney & Film Maker), Bill Parry Davies (Open Dalston) and David Hoffman (photographer), shared their personal experiences of difficulties from the authorities making the survival of a thriving counter culture impossible.

Reilly and Grieve spoke on behalf of two major UK clubs (Fabric London and Sub Club Glasgow, respectively). Mike Grieve focused in particular on the experience of the Arches club in Glasgow closed down by the authorities.

Fabric was closed by the authorities later to re-open under strict rules, the Arches, Glasgow closed down permanently. 

These key cases are similar stories, where both establishments, despite working closely with the authorities to meet all requirements, are being held responsible for people’s consumption of illegal drugs in their venues.

Annmarie Davies told us about the secret deal done between developers who moved swiftly to get the Passing Clouds club evicted. A music venue in Hackney for over 10 years, loved by the local community, offered a space for live world music, permaculture, law and debt management workshops, and more.

Winstan Whitter and Bill Parry Davies spoke about the bigger picture, summed up in the story of the 4 Aces Club in Hackney, closed down over 30 years ago, documented in his film Save Our Heritage. A music space hosting the likes of Ben E King, The Prodigy, Aswad, Anne Peebles and legendary nights the Labyrinth Club in its later stages. Its owner and promoter was arrested 14 times without any prosecution brought against him, and the club was constantly raided and finally closed down in 1997. The building lay empty for 10 years before Hackney Council purchased it in 2007, against much high profile campaigning by local people.

David Hoffman spoke about his work as a photographer over many years bearing witness to the suppression of spontaneous culture. From Notting Hill in the 70’s , through Brixton in the 80’s, to the 2000’s the police have become much more confrontational, with the Forward Intelligence team, FIT, monitoring and intimidating photographers. David Hoffman went on to describe how "Counter culture, protest and terrorism are being deliberately blurred”.

And finally Bill Parry Davies talked about current high profile battles to save Ridley Road Market and Dalston Curve. Highlighting that in the case of the 4 Aces Club in Hackney there had also been racism. While these are all individual cases, when looked at collectively, it is clear that this is a pathological feature of the East End that will continue if it is not stopped.

Tactics being used today have been used in the past 30 years to close down music spaces, and an evidenced link has been made between the past and the present. Whilst today there seems to be more awareness and a better understanding of the need to save our music spaces, we are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of reaching an understanding on the importance of this to the survival of local communities. Much more needs to be done on this.