Having returned with album It’s Automatic, Coventry trio The Enemy are once again casting an eye on UK life and more. With clubs shutting their doors and venues closing, in a guest column frontman Tom Clarke asks what’s happened to the party… particularly as he’s opened his own club.
Last orders used to be the signal to finish your drink and head to a nightclub. The 70s saw the height of UK night club culture, The Specials even wrote a song about it. “Is this the in place to be? What am I doing here? Watching the girls go by, spending money on beer.” Throughout the 80’s and early 90s the rise of acid house and rave made nightclubs temples for lovers of electronic music, but by the late 1990s even legendary clubs like Manchester’s Hacienda found themselves struggling as they were overwhelmed by drug culture and financial troubles.
Ten years ago there were 3,133 night clubs in the UK. Today in 2015 there are just 1,733. In part, this is because of changes in licensing law. That bell that used to ring at your local pub simply doesn’t anymore because they can stay open all night if they want to. Changes in our drinking habits as a nation have also played a part. Pre-loading amongst students is now common place (particularly since the introduction of high tuition fees) and in recent years of economic recession many people choose their late night drinking spot based on who has the cheapest drink promotions rather than who best represents their segment of culture.
Recently myself and some far more experienced people, it has to be said, have embarked on opening a late night spot called The Empire in my home city of Coventry. It’s been eye opening in terms of the future of night clubs. Rather than being specialist temples for specific segments of culture the way now seems to be to be inclusive of everyone. There are many nights where you’ll find say a shoegaze or alternative indie band playing, only to clear the entire venue out after they’ve performed to fill it again with punters who’re into deep house. There are nights almost exclusively attended by students, followed by nights with heritage acts attracting a much older average age group.
Nightclubs now days have to serve a multitude of functions in order to meet the ever growing overheads of city centre premises. Ours doubles up as a live music venue, we’re looking into it functioning as a sports bar during the day and putting on seated comedy events too. On balance, I think the fusion is quite a good thing. It means the space is shared by an entire community, even if they don’t share the same tastes in music or entertainment. I like the idea that people might give entirely new genres a go within the safety of an environment they’re familiar with. I think the shift from specialist to all inclusive type spaces might actually help people broaden their horizons musically. It certainly has for me anyway and if it does for a few more people that can only be a good thing.
I’d like to think that in ten years time we won’t be looking at a drop in numbers like we’ve seen over the last decade. I think it’s the job of night club proprietors to listen to the public, and the job of the public to keep going out and spending money in places if they want them to be around ten years from now. They’re an important part of our culture, of our history, and hopefully of our future too.