There has been in the words of Mrs Merton, ‘a heated debate” going on, on a London based clubbing website* about police raids, arrests and licensing reviews at certain clubs. Most comments on the site agree that ‘Vauxhall village’ now represents a field hospital with music, and on top of this, Mr Plod has gone in as a mystery shopper and shopped the dealers, so anyone now entering these clubs better have clean pants on, because security gloves now scan for hidden property in intimate areas. For years the gay club scene has changed course, in style, demand and direction, mostly going East. Smaller clubs, neatly defined, individual and bold, pop up like toast in Shoreditch and Bethnal Green while Vauxhall trades on it’s past glories. Going home in a flashing blue light ‘Vauxhall taxi’, via St Thomas’s, is the G Heads accolade of a good night out, but the drug and it’s chronic users are destroying the club experience for many casual observers.
Some years back a campaign appeared in the gay media about G – KEEP G OUT OF OUR CLUBS – having seen the damage done in San Francisco & Sydney, in closing gay clubs in those cities with G abuse by Police and Institutions. Feared up by loss of revenue, London promoters left their knives at the door to come together in unity, but as austerity cuts bit into club profits I guess blind eyes to behaviour increased and the larger clubs had more to lose which is why clubs are no longer solely gay, more straight friendly to rack up the dosh. Nothing wrong with gay friendly straights, not all straights are, and in my experience homophobic straight women are on the increase. No wonder we still need to create our own safe family networks, in or out of a club. The general rub of the “heated debate” is that serial drug use has overtaken glowstick happiness, and as one poster said ” Fire & Area are linked to drugs like a horse and carriage, you don’t go from Thursday to Monday on a Red Bull & aspirin “. The Alcohol Licensing Bill of 1875 was brought in to curb the notorious gin palaces of the day and social disorder that stemmed from them. During the First World War licensing hours were introduced on command of the military, who did not want pissed soldiers with a gun in their hand. Since millennium licensing has been relaxed and like kids without reins, we have taken advantage of “continental” style habits, quite forgetting that Brits don’t drink booze from a thimble like the French, we are natural guzzlers of anything liquid in a large glass. Beer has been historically more available than tea, so call it genetic and cultural usage. Many clubbers in the 90’s dropped booze as a drug of choice and choose a pharmaceutical route, but that old genetic link remained and its underling addictive quality. Even overseas visitors says they are blown away by London club consumption of chemicals and alcohol, alarmed and feeling ostracised by behaviour.
Many commentators on the ‘debate’ website refer to the subject of personal responsibility by promoters, landlords and clientele. This is all very well coming from a comfy armchair or people who have bought £2 Million Penthouses close to the clubs in question, watching wandering wastrels scour the landscape 24/7, but the nature of the beast defies logic. Addiction in any form has been described as “the illness that tells you you haven’t got it” and the wake up call is often ignored by gathering colluders to keep the game in motion. At some point in our lives we need to check in and curb behaviour, and gay clubs should be no different. Sadly, it can take a Licensing Review, to stare reality in the face, the same as an individual losing a job, relationship or good health through using and abusing, and addiction to profit is no different. I am told that most clubs employ good medics, but I suspect that this out of fear, loss of licence, rather than respecting clientele. Remember how long it took to get tap water in clubs when E ruled the roost. It took a death to implement change. Some people wonder why clubbers refuse to take personal responsibility for themselves and others. The answer is that habits, compulsions and serial addictive behaviour are beyond intelligence. The Word Health Organisation defines addiction as an illness, not self inflicted. Some wake up and move on after a period of heavy usage, while other stay stuck on a hamsters wheel, convinced that all is well. Just ask a partner of an alcohol or drug abuser. A rock bottom is as long as you can stretch it out before it’s too late to recover, when health overrides hands in the air. In fact hands in the air, is all close friends, co-workers, family and partners can muster in frustration at blind delusion.
You may need to curb and review your own clubbing activities, lost phones, unsafe sex and drug intake at some point, remember you don’t need a rock bottom drama to change tack. A good night’s sleep, nature’s botox, and a friend to share concerns with is a good start, before searching further help. Not every user becomes an addict but heavy using can get you nowhere fast, just walking through treacle and staying stuck.