FEATURE: Another Form of Hostility: Discrimination and the Continuing Struggle for London’s Black Clubbers



Another Form of Hostility



Discrimination and the Continuing Struggle for London’s Black Clubbers


MY eye was caught by a piece in The Guardian


IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images/Metropolitan Police

written by Jesse Bernard. The article looked back at the 2005-launched Form 696 that was created by Metropolitan Police. It was a risk-assessment form that mandated the promoters of London’s nightclub life to provide details of the events they were planning – including the race and ethnic breakdown of their intended clientele. It was, rightfully, scorned for being racist and discriminatory. The form instantly attacked the profitability and freedom of Rap, Hip-Hop and Grime. I can see a measure put in place if there was an immense amount of violence and brutality. Clubs and venues were threatened following Fabric’s drug-related incidents. They reopened and relaunched after being threatened with permanent closure. I felt that measure was exaggerated and rash. We know there are going to be drug incidents and violence at venues around the capital. The fact a couple of incidents brought Fabric into the fore should not have resulted in that closure – it is back in business but subject to tight measures and curfews. It wasn’t until November of 2017 before Form 696 was dropped altogether. When the Form was dropped; The Independent captured some reactions:

Launched by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the review included a consultation between local council licensing managers, venue owners, the Musicians’ Union, London Promoters Forum and led by the capital’s Night Czar Amy Lame.



Mr Khan welcomed the decision, saying it would help London’s “night-time economy thrive” and ensures the capital is “a welcoming place for artists and DJs of all music genres and that Londoners are able to enjoy live music safely”.

He added: “I called for a review of Form 696 earlier this year because of concerns raised by promoters and artists in the capital that this process was unfairly affecting specific communities and music genres.”

Met Police superintendent Roy Smith said London had seen a “reduction in serious incidents at promoted music events, particularly those involving firearms” in recent years”.

I have a lot of respect for Amy Lamé and know the BBC Radio 6 Music D.J. is doing great work for London. She is helping safeguard the public and protect venues – ensuring those who spend the night enjoying music are not subject to needless harm and prejudice. She welcomed the abolition of Form 696. Although there is no legislation restricting access and right for black clubbers: there is a great fear they are being marginalised and pushed to the boundaries. Areas like East and South London used to be hotspots and havens because of the strong Grime scene. Forerunners like Wiley and Dizzee Rascal put the genre on the map. Dizzee’s Bow-based brilliance brought young black people together in a safe and secure space.


PHOTO CREDITPlaces + Faces

There are new Grime artists like Stormzy and Kano but, as other genres are resonating with the population of these areas – it seems there are fewer Grime and Rap clubs available. Some are being converted whilst others are recruiting more white patrons – some of whom are offering violence and hate at the established and loyal black crowd. The more gentrified and ‘clean’ London becomes; the more isolated black revellers feel. They consume less alcohol than white clubbers but receive much lower pay. Their standard of living is lower so, even in the clubs that retain their musical purity; the raised prices and inflated drinks prices means they are being squeezed out. There are various forms of discrimination at play: economical and violent among them. There are, as The Guardian article highlights, issues with entry and dress codes. Clubs, as part of gentrification, are stiffening their policies and insisting their patrons adopt a different look – this often conflicts with the style and identity of black clubbers. Many clubbers are going to areas outside of South and East London in order to find affordable and accessible music. The irony is, as they have to travel further; they are still spending the same as they always have – less money spent in the bar; more spent on an Oyster Card.



Areas like Croydon are more affordable spots for the underpaid, outpriced black youth. They are leaving traditional hotspots and areas in order to sustain their passion and sociability. Not only does this mean they have to assimilate with a different crowd: they are getting further away from their city and feeling overlooked. London is the best city on Earth but, because of its popularity; bars and venues are being refurbished and renovated to accommodate influx and a growing population. All the ‘rough edges’ are being smoothed and those real, genuine spots – with a few more stains on the toilet floors – are being whitewashed and beautified. The club scene in East London is not exactly a trip through Dubai: it is still quite gritty and authentic in certain areas. If areas like Hackney and Elephant and Castle are ‘improving’ and being gentrified – Newham and Bow, perhaps, a little more genuine and grounded. There will be a time where all council estates and locales of London are rebuilt and bulldozed. It might not be that long before all low-paid locals will have to leave London altogether so they can enjoy a good night out. I know for a fact there is a lot of violence and hatred still being perpetrated in many London clubs. Even though there are venues dedicated to fostering the best Grime and Rap music around; there is a clear social division between higher-paid patrons from wealthier parts of the capital and the poorer (predominantly) black attendees.



I have heard stories of scuffles and violence. Many have been attacked by bouncers and it seems, the more expensive it becomes and the stricter entry access becomes; the harder it is for young black clubbers to find inclusion. There is hope things will improve and stabilise. The success and advent of artists like Stormzy means there is a great demand for Grime and Hip-Hop at the moment. The only reason these artists rose through the ranks are those local venues and faithful supporters. There were fears, before Form 696 came in, that there would be a lot of trouble from various ‘sectors’ of London society. Implementing these codifications and guidelines was designed to ensure there would be less violence and trouble in London’s clubs – even if it did seem like a shot at black clubbers. The fact there was very little trouble did not prove Form 696 was a success and logical move: there would have been the same level of conflict without it being in place to begin. I still worry there is little consideration being given to the less-well-off in the capital. Maybe there is less bloodshed and illegal activity – against the black population – than previous years but, in another way; raising prices and forcing black clubbers further from the centre of London is another form of discrimination. It might not be as overt as attack and violence - but it is still seeing division and split through the community. In the past, clubs like Common Sense (Peckham) and Eskimo Dance have put on Grime nights and been affordable options.



London’s Hip-Hop scene is evolving and spots like Club 49 and Bar Rumba proving popular; 100 and Supa Dupa Fly great spots that have affection and great knowledge of R&B/Rap/Hip-Hop. I look at these areas and, from images and prices listed; you wonder what kind of punter is coming through the door. The entry fees vary but, when you get to the bar; how much are you paying for a night out? The only way London can maintain a mixed-race nightclub scene is to consider those who earn less than the ‘average wage’. I can understand why some clubs need to modernise – for safety and, by projecting a classier image, they are more attractive – but it is coming at the expense of the low-paid black community. In order to diversify clubbing and the Grime/Rap/Hip-Hop scene; we need to, in a way, rebel against gentrification and offer more affordable venues. There are some out there but they are becoming fewer. In order to sustain the momentum of Form 696’s extinction; clubs, our Government and appointed guardians need to ensure black clubbers are welcomed and as visible as they were years ago – in areas that are becoming more expensive and restrictive. That might sound counter-logical but we need to ensure ever-growing gentrification does not…



EXCLUDE black clubbers in London.