Instead of grieving the disappearance of British nightclubs, get out and dance them away. -Dan Hancox

Estimated read time 5 min read


Enjoying oneself has become a lucrative industry. Initially, it was the factories and mills that attracted large numbers of people to urban areas, but now in modern cities, the focus is on sustaining the population through the production of entertainment and the commercialization of leisure activities. The common term used to describe this trend is meaningful: the evening economy is now a self-sustaining entity, estimated to be worth around £66bn in the UK. The traditional concept of cities shutting down at night has been replaced by the idea that they should be constantly bustling with activity – after all, sleep is seen as unproductive. However, the current state of British nightlife, encompassing nightclubs, pubs, and restaurants, paints a bleak picture: the industry is facing significant challenges.

In their recent publication, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) investigated the economic and cultural influence of electronic music in Britain. The report revealed that while the genre is successful in the digital sphere, at festivals, and on a global scale, the physical foundation of club culture is suffering. After all, dance music is incomplete without a lively dance floor.

The report discovered that nationwide, the amount of nightclubs has decreased by 396 since March 2020, which is almost one-third of its original total of 1,283 before the pandemic. In the capital, this has been linked to a political narrative from the Conservative party during an election year, blaming Sadiq Khan’s performance as mayor for the decline of London’s nightlife. This was articulated in a recent headline from the Daily Mail newspaper.

In 2024, walking around central London may give the impression of being in a satirical representation of the excitement of spontaneous city life. This includes trendy bars with ball pits and escape rooms for forced workplace gatherings, pricey ticketed events, and security personnel pretending to be police, forcing people out of heavily monitored private public spaces. This Easter, Soho will hold The Art of Going Out, advertised as a groundbreaking immersive art exhibit centered around nightlife, while local pubs and bars face difficulties staying in business.

However, it is a bizarre kind of black-sky thinking to complain that London’s nightlife has been annihilated, or that “UK clubs will be extinct by 2030”, as one recent headline in fashion magazine Dazed wailed.

Based on a quick search on Google Maps, there are 17 establishments serving drinks in my area of southern London that are open until at least midnight on Saturday nights. Many of these places have a dance floor and a DJ, and there are even more clubs that stay open until the early hours. Despite facing tough obstacles, there are constantly new locations opening up. My current preferred clubs in London, Ormside Projects, Venue MOT, and The Carpet Shop, are all grassroots and unpretentious venues with exceptional sound systems and laid-back vibes. These locations have all opened within the past decade, with The Carpet Shop being the most recent addition just 18 months ago.

Large cities have certain establishments that are more susceptible to risks. Southwark council member Kimberly McIntosh explains that venues featuring black and Latin music can encounter unique challenges. McIntosh was taken aback by the intense efforts made by newcomers living in costly apartment buildings to shut down two late-night venues in the area, which tend to attract “recent migrants.” These efforts went largely unnoticed compared to the well-known fight to save the popular superclub Fabric. McIntosh reveals that many of the complaints filed were subtly discriminatory in nature.

Club attendance has significantly declined throughout Britain, but there seems to be a disproportionate focus on major cities, where the ever-changing club scene and exhaustion have always been prevalent. This brings attention away from the true areas in need. The biggest impact has been on smaller towns, with a recent example being the closure of Wigan’s Indiependence after 20 years. According to the NTIA report, over half of the nationwide losses come from these towns. Covid, rising costs, and a decrease in disposable income have hit small town clubs on the high street particularly hard in recent years.

The nightlife industry is not struggling everywhere. In large venues such as theaters, arenas, and sports arenas, alcohol sales have increased by an impressive 18.8% compared to 2019. Similarly, bars have seen an 11.5% rise in alcohol takings. This could suggest that the dancefloor experience is being taken over by other forms of nighttime entertainment like festivals, concerts, sports events, and bars.

It is the duty of urban planners, policymakers, and politicians to promote a diverse and inclusive cultural and social scene for everyone. However, to combat the homogenization caused by gentrification and capitalism, we must also play a role. To ensure a vibrant club scene, we must actively engage and support it, not just from the sidelines.

Rewritten: This week, Elijah, co-founder of the Butterz label and music enthusiast, wrote on X that some individuals in London see nightlife as an inherent good, rather than something that is created by their own actions and interactions.

Put simply: instead of grieving, celebrate! Celebrate, and actively participate in addressing the issues facing your community. Local communities often have small, independent venues at risk that need the support of the public: they require advocates to help in conflicts with landlords, developers, resistant residents, and during hearings and consultations with local authorities.

Regardless of whether you believe your days of dancing on the floor are over, I urge everyone to join in the request: provide us with sustenance, but also with upbeat music.

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    Dan Hancox is an independent reporter who covers a variety of topics such as music, politics, urban life, and culture. He will be releasing a new book, titled Multitudes: How Crowds Shaped the Modern World, later this year.


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