Terry Francis prefers to let his music do the talking but as an integral part of the Fabric family, he has found himself at the centre of one of the most controversial decisions to affect the nightlife industry in as long as we can remember. London’s Islington Council’s decision to revoke the license of the iconic venue, following the deaths of two clubbers in June and August, has sent shock waves around the club world and prompted outrage and support from artists and the public alike. It has placed many members of its dedicated team, who prefer to do their work out of the spotlight, in front of cameras and reporters from all over the world, because, make no mistake, this is a decision that could have far reaching cultural consequences.
While the club and its owners in no way belittled the death of the two young clubbers through drug misuse, Cameron Leslie’s passionate defence at the council hearing pointed to a previously close working relationship with the Metropolitan Police to make sure the venue was a million miles away from the safe haven for drug dealers that is has been painted as. The articulate appeal fell on deaf ears, maybe reinforcing the apparent claims that the closure of one of the world’s finest clubs was part of a more sinister plan. The clubbing community is coming together under the Save Fabric London campaign (#savefabric) with thousands already signing the petition – www.facebook.com/savefabric/ – showing its universal support.
Terry Francis visited us in the picturesque village of Santa Gertrudis, where he was joined by Essential Ibiza’s Charlie Chester, someone with a fair bit of experience of the London club scene, and Clara Da Costa, who was hosting Terry on her Jack’s House show on Ibiza Sonica Radio later that evening (listen to the show here). As we chatted about the implications of the closure, it became clearer that this is much more than the closing of the doors to one night club…
Can you describe your history with Fabric?
Terry: I’ve been a resident at Fabric for 18 years; I’ve gone grey with that place! I’m part of the furniture there. Fabric was like a social centre for adults, it’s where people meet and we were like a little clique, a family.
How did you get involved with the club?
Terry: I was playing at the Sound Shaft and Keith was telling me he was going to open this club and that he wanted me to get involved. I went to see the venue with him – I actually had to climb down a ladder – and I knew immediately it was something special; this raw brick warehouse. It took about four or five years to open it up and by the time it opened, Keith and I and everyone involved had become really close friends. It was like a real family thing. All I can say about the whole thing is that it is a bloody shame…
When the council was discussing the closure, did you think it was actually going to happen?
I was actually feeling quite positive because we had a very good defence of the situation and we thought people would understand that the opposing point of view made no sense. But when they came back out of that room, it was like they hadn’t even listened.
A lot of iconic clubs have been closed to make way for the London Crossrail, do you think the closure of Fabric could have something to do with it?
It could be, although with the new Freedom of Information act you can look up if any plans have been filed and there aren’t any plans on the building at the moment. I think it is literally a purely vindictive act by the police to get their own back because they got sacked off in a court case before and they didn’t like it. They went to court because they wanted sniffer dogs at the venue, which was unfeasible to do. You don’t go through an aiport and get sniffed by a dog every time, you know what I mean. And the searches at Fabric are more than you would encounter at an airport. I also think it could be to do with cutbacks, because the police can’t afford to patrol the streets properly anymore. It’s a bigger thing.
Do you think blame for the two fatal overdoses this summer is being unjustly put upon Fabric?
People get swept off a beach and they don’t close the beach down. It comes down to a little bit of self-control and taking responsibility for yourself. I feel so sorry for these kids because they died in a venue, but it’s not our fault. They’re almost making us out to be murderers or something… You can buy drugs down the pub easier than you could in the club. I have never been offered drugs in Fabric, you don’t get people wandering around offering ‘trips and Es’. My daughter goes there, who is 20. Do you think I’d let her in a club that is dangerous?
The feeling that’s resonated with me is that how many other clubs, parties, DJs, musicians, clothing labels and such like have come from meeting in that club?
Yes, it was like a big family. There have been kids gathering outside Fabric with candles and people were putting flowers and little cards in the door; it reminded me of Kensington Palace when Princess Di died. It was quite emotional really. Fabric was like a university to many people, many top producers who have made a lot of revenue for the country have been ‘educated’ there and it’s an industry that needs to survive. A lot of people actually have a clean living through this.
Not to mention the 250 jobs that have been lost…
It’s not even just the jobs at the venue. I went down there on Saturday night and all of the cafes were closed, they all survived thanks to the people around there [the footfall from Fabric]. It became a bit of an industrial hub when it started up.
What do you think could the repercussions within the dance music industry be?
There are lot of people, including myself, who have got to make a living, so I think the council has spawned a devil because lots of warehouse parties will be going on without paramedics. It’s going back to the underground, and I don’t understand why they don’t get that.
What are your fondest memories of the club?
There are so many… But having my family and friends, including my daughter, dancing to my set was lovely.
There was a huge amount of support before the decision to close the club. Now what?
This week we are starting the campaign [to save Fabric] but it needs direction. We want to get everyone together who feels passionate about it, but in a serious way. Even the mainstream press can see that it’s a farce and I think they might be getting behind it. All I want to say to the people who have supported Fabric is to stick with us and that it really means something.
What do you think the chances are the decision will get reversed?
Terry: I think maybe it will, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a win because the council would probably put so many restrictions on it that the venue won’t be able to function.
Donate or share to help the Save Fabric campaign: www.fabriclondon.com/save-culture