Nightclub Legend | Fabric in Charterhouse Street

Other clubs have come and gone but the beat goes on at Fabric in Charterhouse Street. Here are 15 facts for its 15th birthday….

An inferior nightclub might be dismissed as being a ‘meat market’. Fabric is actually opposite a meat market – Smithfield – and it’s based in the renovated Metropolitan Cold Stores. When it launched, the labyrinthine, underground space had a warehouse feel in an EC1 location that was still up-and-coming.

Coincidentally, Fabric opened at the same time as Home, occupying seven floors in the tourist trap of Leicester Square. It boasted a big name resident DJ in Paul Oakenfold, while Fabric opened its doors with an edgy drum & bass night. But Home closed after two years, while its ‘superclub’ rival lives on.

The 25,000 sq ft venue has three separate rooms and a clubbing capacity of 1,500. The club cost a reported £9.2 million. There were queues round the block when it opened even though tickets cost £15 (not cheap in 1999). Today an average weekend ticket is £20 and the club is open until 7am.

Fabric’s first resident DJ was Craig Richards and, 15 years later, he’s still there playing tech-house, dubby techno and “abstract beats”. As musical director, Richards is responsible for Saturday night’s tunes. Apparently he also dabbles in poetry and painting.

Fabric boasts Europe’s first bass-loaded, body-sonic dance floor: clubbers really can feel the music. The powerful sound system for the cavernous venue took two years of global research and is reputed to be one of the best in the world.

Fittingly for this below-stairs venue, their policy is for underground music. Fabric shook up the stagnant club scene in the late Nineties. As well as reviving drum & bass, they led the way with new sounds: tech house, minimal, grime and dubstep.

Remember when nightclub doormen used to scrutinise the shoes in the queue? Fabric ended that strange sartorial rule that your shoes had to be shiny. These days trendy trainers are fine, but blokes in city suits are turned away for not being funky enough.

While clubs such as Home took out full-page adverts in glossy magazines, Fabric was at the forefront of guerilla marketing. The venue’s arrival was heralded with enigmatic flyers, while someone attached Fabric stickers to pound coins to spread the word through everyday commerce.

DJ Magazine named Fabric the best London club in its annual global poll of clubs for 2014 (it came fourth behind two venues in Ibiza and one in Brazil). Fabric topped the global poll in 2008.

10 As the night wears on in most clubs, the idea of genderdefined toilets tends to become meaningless as both sexes congregate in whatever loo they stumble into. The Fabric team realised this and came up with a simple solution: unisex loos.

11 Strictly speaking, Fabric adopts a pretentious lower-case style for its name: fabric.

12 Although it’s a popular myth that Madonna was turned away three times, her huge entourage was refused. Moby was reportedly rejected for reminding door staff who he was. Fabric fans who wandered around without any fanfare include Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bono and Kiefer Sutherland, while Macaulay Culkin happily queued up with fellow clubbers.

13 There have been setbacks along the way. In 2010, Fabric went into administration during the credit crunch as a result of the company guaranteeing a £3.2 million loan to a failed club venture called Matter at The O2 complex. But the profitable Clerkenwell club’s future was soon secured.

14 Fabric has kept its club brand cool by not diluting the name with fashion labels, handbags or hotels, and they have deliberately avoided expanding into Ibiza. But Fabric members can buy an
exclusive ‘EC1’ t-shirt to show their loyalty.

15 Fabric did launch a record label as a monthly showcase. There are more than 150 compilations and one of the best is by the late John Peel (his only mix CD). Although never a dance DJ, the Radio 1 veteran described his first Fabric appearance in 2002 as “one of the greatest nights of my life”. Fifteen minutes after he’d finished, clubbers were still singing his favourite song, Teenage Kicks, and chanting his name.