These are unmistakably tough times for British clubs, with statistics released in 2015 suggesting that nearly half the UK's clubs had closed in the 10 years prior.
But based on a quick survey of London nightlife, it's hard to argue that the scene is in anything other than rude health. Over the last few years, massive venues like Printworks and E1 have sprung up in overlooked urban locations, offering phenomenal soundsystems and amazing light shows. Meanwhile, veteran venues like Troxy and Heaven continue to ply a trade, and Fabric London and XOYO pursue forward-thinking booking policies that keep London right at the cutting edge of the international clubbing pile.
Here are 10 superclubs that keep London the envy of party people all over the world.
London clubland was struck a particularly cruel blow when Studio 338 was destroyed by fire in August 2016. But the North Greenwich venue has bounced back, bigger and better, reopening last November with a spectacular array of new fittings, including a VOID Acoustics soundsystem, a rubberised dance floor and an LED light installation nicknamed 'The Octopus' thanks to its distinctive 'tentacles'. And let's not forget the terrace, built in glass and steel – this June's Space Ibiza festival will be about as close as you'll get to the full White Isle experience without having to reach for your passport.
Printworks used to be Western Europe’s largest newspaper printing facility, and the only metallic rhythms you’d hear gracing its halls were the printing presses running off copies of tomorrow’s Metro and Evening Standard. In January 2017, the building in London’s Docklands re-opened as a 5,000 capacity clubbing space, and quickly made its name with massive line-ups from The Hydra, RAM Records and Afropunk. Original fixtures and fittings create a pleasingly industrial atmosphere, and it’s not all about the cavernous main room: a new space, opening March 2018, will provide a space for live music and other cultural events.
Its temporary closure in the autumn of 2016 threatened to take the wind out of Fabric’s sails, but since winning back its license after a successful crowdfunding campaign, the Farringdon superclub has sprung back with renewed vigour. Fabric kicked off 2018 with a new Friday night event series, Forms, which promises to bring a raft of new talent into the club. Meanwhile, the Saturday nights are focused on the sort of special all-night-sets and B2B pairings that Fabric does better than pretty much anyone, and the FABRICLIVE series continues to go from strength to strength with recent smashers from Holy Goof and Skream.
XOYO changed the game back in 2015 when they introduced their quarterly residency series – a chance for the great and good of club music to take the reigns for 13 weeks of consecutive Fridays. Since, the likes of Erol Alkan, Skream, The Black Madonna, Eats Everything, and Artwork have stepped up to the plate, exploring the breadth of their influences through unique, hand-selected bills, extended B2B sets and the occasional live band. Also see Saturday night’s XOYO Loves parties, which offer up house, techno and disco with Joshua James holding it down in Room Two.
A bit of a hidden gem, The Steelyard is a Grade Two listed building that occupies the huge railway arch under Cannon Street station. At 10,000 square feet in size, it feels roomy in a way that not a lot of central London venues can match – and a new refurb, which will include a brand new NOVA soundsystem, is on the cards. Drum ‘n’ bass legends Ed Rush & Optical recently threw a 20 Years Of Virus party there; other promoters who call Steelyard home include techno stalwarts Reculture and Tribal Village, whose psytrance events promise a spiritual good time.
Troxy is another venue with history. Built in 1933, this beautiful Art Deco building in East London’s Limehouse was once the largest cinema in England, and still houses a vintage pipe organ used to play popular tunes back in the age of the silent movie. These days, the Troxy is a much loved music venue with irregular club nights. Carnival hard dance night Illuminaughty is a popular highlight, and we still hold fond memories of the time Red Bull teamed up with Disclosure to throw a killer party back in 2016.
Housed across three sprawling floors in a former Victorian warehouse on the site of London gay clubbing institution Trade, Egg London’s all-night weekend license makes it a home for the capital’s 24-hour party people. Friday nights focus on commercial house, while Saturdays lean more towards a techno crowd. Also keep an eye out for Trance Sanctuary, flying the flag for the contemporary trance sound, and Wednesday night staple BoxD, which lines up deep house, bass, grime and trap with drinks from £1 and early bird tickets £3 a pop.
Heaven has a special place in London clubland history. Founded December 1979 by impresario Jeremy Norman, this 1000-capacity Charing Cross nightspot brought the capital’s thriving gay scene overground for the very first time. Today it’s home to the capital’s premiere gay club, G-A-Y, which runs most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – although Heaven also doubles up as a live music venue, with the likes of Sophie, Dream Wife and Alma chalking up shows there in 2018.
This Bethnal Green space has quickly become one of East London’s key clubbing locations, its cavernous warehouse-style interior and outdoor terraces hosting a dazzlingly broad range of music – one night a Tim Westwood DJ set, the next a performance from classical minimalist Terry Riley, the next a night of banging Detroit techno from Juan Atkins and friends. Fans of brutalist inner city architecture will thrill to the chance to watch the sun rise over the nearby gasworks; ravers after a more intimate space might try Oval Space’s nearby sister venue The Pickle Factory.
The new kid on the block is E1 – 7000 square feet of space in Wapping, a short walk from Shadwell tube. It’s not an altogether new venue – previously it went by the name Studio Spaces, and played host to a string of parties by promoters The Hydra throughout 2013 and 2014. But the space has been acquired by new management, has been kitted out with a five-point Funktion One soundsystem, and opened on December 31 2017 with a 27-hour party headlined by Berghain resident Ben Klock. Not a bad way to make an intro, and shows from DJ Stingray, Trentemøller and Sven Väth prove it’s a force to be reckoned with.
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