GENTRIFICATION AND DISAPPEARING NIGHTCLUBS

by James Anthony

In my first year of university, I had the pleasure to live on Prince of Wales Road in Norwich, one of the most dangerous roads in Norfolk and one of England’s worst drinking areas in terms of late-night violence. While it might not have been for everyone, I honestly loved the feeling of being at the heart of the city’s nightlife and counted myself week in week out as one of the thousands of club-goers descending onto the strip. For me, nightclubs are a way to relive stress, relax and enjoy yourself alongside scores of friends and strangers, and represent a sort of coming together of people of all different backgrounds to lose yourself in the dance.

Undeniably, high levels of intoxication from alcohol and drug use leads to an unsafe environment, and it is only fair that this is clamped down on. What worries me most from this situation, is that as well as individuals, certain clubs are being demonised and unfairly blamed for the chaos in the area. With over half of the UK’s clubs closing since 2005, it is not hard to see the same happening in Norwich. Often these clubs are being replaced by expensive bars in an attempt to secure a richer customer base, or to avoid late night trouble and clashes with the City Council.

places of celebration and enjoyment are being shut down in the interests of business and as a result of gentrification

Nightclubs should be a place of enjoyment. Places to meet new people, bond with strangers or simply to have a great time with close friends. These should be areas to facilitate creativity and new experiences, ranging from discovery of new music to expressions of sexuality, and there is no way that progressives should stand by and allow nightclubs to be branded as areas of moral degradation. It is a problem for a society when places of celebration and enjoyment are being shut down in the interests of business and as a result of gentrification.

Particular favourites of Norwich party-goers, clubs Lola Lo and Hideout both closed relatively recently to make way for bars. The latter club in particular was a venue much loved by myself and my peers, specialising in alternative music and showcasing the very best in drum and bass, garage and UK hip hop and rap, a subculture which is under threat with other similar, smaller and more niche clubs being pushed out of the market across the country. There have also been high profile battles with Norwich City Council over noise complaints, with residential accommodation being built up around the clubs, to no fault of the premises themselves. These legal cases are costly to nightclub owners, and increasingly make it far less attractive to provide night time entertainment in our city. If all this continues, it worries me that not too far in the future there may not be any nightclubs in Norwich, with clubs catering for more specific interests or certain sections of society disappearing even sooner.

My suggestion is that certain nightclubs, far from being encouraged to shut down, should have a sort of protected status. Particularly LGBTQ+ venues, or those such as Hideout which hosted nights focused on playing new, alternative music ought to be protected. We should be proud that entrepreneurship and a love of music in a creative city like Norwich has produced such a diverse range of nightclubs, and do everything we can to ensure they don’t disappear at the hands of gentrification or crushing restrictions.

Nightclubs promote individualism, art and creativity and are far from something to be ashamed of. Despite the constant negative headlines and demonization, we have to acknowledge the joy they bring to so many people at the same time as working to cut down on late night violence. We must promote penalisation of individuals, not clubs – let’s not lose any more of our fine city’s late night assets.

 


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