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Sometimes online petitions can be more than just shouting into the wind
With threats of club closures, and worse, actual closures, we reported that the number of music venues in the UK has dropped by more than half in ten years.
Noise complaints and the changing environment around legendary clubs have meant that every city is awash with empty dance halls. From The Arches in Glasgow to Plastic People in London, at one point it felt like the more prominent the club, the more likely it was to be axed.
However, amidst the failed online petitions and shrugged shoulders of faceless property developers, there are some occasional strobes of light. There are a few places that have bitten back, carried on the shoulders of loyal customers who won't go quietly.
The power of people protest is something to marvel at, especially when it’s a group of people brought together by a love of the dance. Here are the stories of just a few of these.
Madame JoJo’s, Soho
By descending into the wine red caverns of Madame Jojo’s, you were marking your status as a tastemaker. Into the more risque side of life? A night of cabaret and burlesque for you. Ready to thrash your idealistic fists into the air to a soundtrack of the next best things? White Heat indie parties for you.
Its location in the heart of Soho has made the tale of Madame JoJo’s a prime example of Soho's transformation into a gentrifier’s paradise. After a violent incident in 2014, it was forced into closure to the chagrin of its regulars. A vigil was held, a petition was started and yet Madame Jojo’s remained closed to the changing face of Soho.
White Heat @ Madame JoJo's
In a U turn that’s curried as much scepticism as it has favour, the developers who have bought the Madam JoJo’s space have announced that they’ll be re-opening it. Soho Estate’s reports that they’ll be opening “a bigger and better” version of the original, though whether any semblance of its predecessor will be kept has yet to be confirmed. A triumph, for now.
Bussey Building, Peckham
Why, with the quality of all the clubs around and above the river, would you venture to Peckham? Bussey Building - with its labyrinth rooms and abundance of choice- helped turn this corner of Southwark into a destination.
An arts space with a record store in the basement, the alley that leads into the Bussey courtyard brims with promise every weekend, as nights like Soul Train and Deadly Rhythm pack out the club.
Soul Train at Bussey Building
Outrage didn’t even cover the sentiment when it was announced that the building was under threat at the end of last year. Petitions, council letters and widespread coverage ensued before a tense wait was met with the announcement that for once, developers had done the decent thing.
“Our intention has never been to push against the interests of the local community. Indeed, we would love to work alongside it, and hopefully help it to develop positively over the coming years. As such, and following careful consideration, we have today instructed Southwark Council that we wish to withdraw the current planning application.”
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern
The LGBTQ community has arguably been hit the hardest by the changing face of club culture. In London alone there have been a significant number of closures, scattered from North to South, taking venues in central with it too. The Joiner's Arms in Hackney, The Black Cap in Camden and Madame JoJo's in Soho all temporarily and permanently closed in the venue cull of 2015.
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is historic in its nature. The first gay venue to be listed in the UK, it has nurtured the talents of the likes of Lily Savage, having hosted celebrities like Freddie Mercury and apparently, Diana Princess of Wales.
In 2014 the RVT was sold to property developers, the first and often only sign a place needs to condemn its future. Notable visitors came forward to have their say, but luckily its owners were retained and business continued as normal.
Ministry of Sound
Our hallowed halls have not been far from the news of proposed closure. In 2013 a new development right across the street threw shades of fuss due to the possibility of future noise complaints. It fell on Boris Johnson to make a decision on whether or not to give Oakmayne Property developers the go ahead on a new venture.
After a campaign that involved artists, local activists and clubbers alike, big man Boris came on side and the developers next door had to come to terms with some terms of our own. Including specially sealed windows, acoustic glazing and “internal winter gardens”.
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