Monday, 18 May 2015

Conspiracy ahoy, I guess

The problem with the current loss of The Arches' late licence isn't anything to do with all the bold theatre that is programmed in the same building. As Brian Ferguson hints, the theatre programme can be supported through other means - and although the idea that the clubbing provides financial support to the more high-brow events is seductive, it may not be supported by hard economic facts.

Complaining that the performances might be reduced is beside the point, anyway. The decision of the licensing board was based on the police report on the clubs, not on an overview of the venue's cultural importance.

In any case, the clubbing programme of The Arches is important in its own right. Dance music is an art form with a culture, society and aesthetic. Shutting down The Arches' licence is an attack on that, not the other activities.

It's difficult to defend without casting aspersions on other clubs, or to claim that The Arches is in no way exceptional in the amount of illegal or anti-social behaviour it contains, or wonder why the police have been so enthusiastic in prosecuting the venue. 

And all of these things are sadly beyond my investigative skills. 

My experience of clubbing at The Arches, although limited, has always been positive, with the bouncers being firm but fair and polite, the free water available easily and the first aid room accessible (not that I ever needed it). But in order to defend the club, and attack the decision to remove its late licence, I need more information.

I'm not a journalist, I'm a critic. 

As a critic, I see this decision as an expression of the uneasiness that dance music has always provoked: from the Wigan Casino, through the raves of the late 1980s, through The Criminal Justice Bill, via the Hacienda's problems with door policy, the state has had an issue with clubbing. 

It probably goes back to that medieval time people ate poisoned rye and did St Vitus' dance all over Europe. 

It's a puritanical instinct that fears gatherings. It is the attempt to channel youth culture into acceptable drug use, acceptable pastimes. 

The explosion of rave music did frighten the establishment in the early 1990s. They only had to wait for the scenes to implode - as they did - but the state couldn't. They had to be seen to be doing something. 

They have to be seen to be doing something.

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