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Keep UK dance floors moving

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As a DJ, producer and venue owner, Dan Beaumont is a key player flying the flag for London’s nightlife. He earned his stripes as a DJ with Disco Bloodbath before opening game-changing queer club and bar, Dalston Superstore, pizza joint Voodoo Ray’s and the recently closed club Dance Tunnel. With increasing numbers of clubs seemingly under threat, we quiz Dan on the challenges and opportunities facing the capital’s nocturnal community…

What are the biggest issues for London’s clubs?

In London the price per square foot of dancefloor is a major problem. The price of real estate and the impact it has on available spaces is affecting opportunities for clubs to exist.

The Licensing Act and the ways in which its policies in different boroughs are administered is having a negative impact. The huge proliferation of illegal parties is also in play as well, and has to be addressed.

Licensing officials appear to be acting harshly towards clubs – why is this?

At the front line of licensing policies, you have people under a lot of pressure who have no incentive to be progressive in their approach.

The Licensing Act of 2004 has the mechanism for later hours to be granted. But there’s no comprehensive, London-wide plan for licensing. It’s up to individual boroughs to deal with it as they see fit. Sometimes, the most productive way for them to clear their desks is to try and prevent it in their borough.

Would the appointment of a night time czar have an impact?

The idea is really refreshing. It’s a great step forward. But who would be that person? And who is he or she accountable to? There’s some very comprehensive legislation governing licensing, but it’s not really apparent how that individual, whatever title they are given, would be able to have an impact on decisions.

What can the wider electronic community do to protect clubs and venues?

I’m optimistic because of the creativity of people coming up through the global electronic music scene. It’s a relief to see so many innovative, brave people starting their own projects, organisations and collectives. These are people that will question some of the models in clubs. The future will come through challenging the clubbing model that has become very commercially led.

How has club culture changed since you started going out and DJing?

I was a raver during the nineties – so if you think of 1988 as year zero for acid house, it still felt very fresh. Back then, it felt like it led to the breaking down of a lot of social barriers that existed in this country – barriers surrounding age, race, gender, sexual orientation and class. Now clubbing has become much more compartmentalised.

It’s our responsibility to ensure these spaces stay diverse. If you look at the social conditions in London now – have they improved since the riots five years ago? They haven’t. Raving isn’t the answer to all our problems but it is an expression of a healthy, diverse, socially mobile culture which there isn’t enough of.

What do you think of the ‘safe space’ concept?

Phrases like safe spaces are much maligned now and it’s very easy to take an anti-political correctness stance. What we’re actually saying is that people should be able to go to clubs and not face abuse because of who they are.

Clubs should be spaces where people who are marginalised in other areas or spaces can be welcomed and contribute without fear or harassment. It improves the culture and the experience for everyone. Club culture came from New York and Chicago, giving a voice to people marginalised by the mainstream. That was the point of disco and of house music. We should try as best as we can to honour that.

Read our interview with Alan Miller from the Night Time Industries Associations on the campaigns launched to promote London nightlife.

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