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Closing time for London's creative scene?

 Saturday, 12th May, 2018

Words by Evy Cauldwell-French, Policy and Events Officer at the Creative Industries Federation


It's rare you'll remember every single night out, but you'll remember the good ones (and the really bad ones). For me, it was a tiny basement club in Peckham. Me and fifty people squeezed together onto a dance floor as two local boys played records on a fairly average sound system. I fell in love with music I’d never heard before. The distinctive visuals projected across the ceiling and the pure corporeal phenomenon of dancing madly with strangers.

Venues like these are few and far between nowadays. It’s getting harder for my friends to put on parties, to find venues which stay open late enough and which aren’t over an hour’s journey away. Spaces like this are important for young people like me. They are the reason we move to London, where much of our creativity finds a home, and where we form friendships and communities. At night we construct new ideas of what London and our creativity can be.

In the UK, one third of those working in the creative industries live in London and 34.5% of them are freelancers. Music venues and art studios allow these freelancers to find communities and friendships to form, spaces to think and create, to play music and dance - as well as audiences eager to pay. Such venues allow networks between creatives and business to thrive, underpinning the entire creative economy and forming the creative lifeblood of cities like London.

Rising business rates, accelerated property development and increasing costs put this ecosystem at risk. As this map by Nesta shows, music clubs are moving out of the centre of London. Emerging talent is becoming an endangered species in central London. We are pushing the untrained and experimental out of the city centre, and replacing them with artists who can generate commercial returns. The Creative Industries Federation’s report on the night time economy urges national and local government to make urgent policy changes to protect London’s vital grassroots creative scene.

Perhaps the best known example is the Proud Camden, a venue that hosted emerging voices like Amy Winehouse, Florence and the Machine and Ed Sheeran in their earliest days. But now the venue is being closed by landlords who want something "fresh".

2017 saw Camden and Westminster both lose 43% of LGBT+ venues respectively. The hardest-hit borough was Islington which lost 80%. If we lose these spaces in central London, we risk pushing certain demographics to the outskirts of our cities and out of “mainstream” society.

There is an argument that this simply means many peoples intuitive idea of what is London’s creative centre is changing, not necessarily for the worse, but just different. Night time culture is moving from listed venues to offline events, now taking place in homes, empty buildings and re-appropriated spaces. 

But the danger is if our capital's centre loses enough of its creative culture that it reaches the point of no return. The centre is the most accessible borough to London's residents, and DIY culture gives a sense of the local that is essential for a city to remain connected to its inhabitants. 

London has a global reputation for its night time economy. It draws a crowd of young people each year to the city, who are a large part of ensuring creativity remains at the heart of our city. We must protect this reputation to ensure it endures. Otherwise people like me will just leave.

The Creative Industries Federation is a dynamic network of creatives forming part of the fastest growing sector in the UK. It is the only independent membership organisation that represents individuals and businesses working across the creative industries. h.Club members will receive 20% off their first year’s subscription.

For more information email Sigrid Gaimster, Membership Manager: