_Opinion: East is the new Black

_Opinion: East is the new Black

Why we should look beyond Berlin for techno's new haven

Since the infamous decision last month, it has often been said that Fabric’s closure points towards a depressing, retrogressive trend in British culture. That it embraces this country's tendency towards anti-intellectualism, a particular fear of the other, of things that are a bit weird. It feeds on the assumption that anyone taking drugs is in some way 'damaged', that they need protecting from themselves.

While enough ink has been spilt over the short-sightedness of Islington Council’s decision, rising rents and rapacious property developers have been forcing London clubs to close by the dozen in recent years; it was probably only a matter of time before Fabric went the same way. Still, the closure of such an important venue marks a new phase in the blandification of London.

We’ve got a night tube now, but what are we going to use it for?

For years now, London’s clubbers have been casting envious glances over at Berlin, with its great music, aggro-free crowds and parties that go on all weekend. Unlike London, Berlin’s local authorities value clubbing’s place at the heart of the city’s cultural life. But if we’re already used to looking east, we’d do well to look a bit further in that direction, to other cities only a short plane ride away. Because while clubbing in London has been entering its death throes, it’s been coming of age in eastern Europe.

There is a countless number of eastern European cities to have been touted as “the new Berlin” in recent years — it’s a problematic comparison, not least because Berlin is an economically unviable city that has been depending on handouts from the rest of Germany ever since reunification. But when it comes to clubbing the parallel is valid. These cities share the ingredients that allowed clubbing to thrive in east Berlin: cheap rents, plenty of space — often in the form of unused communist-era buildings — and creative, open-minded young people.

But the fact remains that underground club scenes are flourishing across the New East is also a good sign that there is a core of young, innovative people in these cities who want to stay there and create something of their own, a place where they feel at home.

Raves in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, have a social and political element that makes them something more than just a way of having fun. They exist as proof of a new era in Georgia and represent the liberal values seeping into its cultural fabric. In a place where anti-homophobia rallies end in violence and vegan cafés are attacked by sausage-wielding nationalists, techno clubs are symbols of progressiveness and tolerance, a refusal of their country's narrow-mindedness.

Many of these people were born after the USSR collapsed, and as members of the first truly post-Soviet generation they will play a big part in shaping their countries’ identities in years to come. They are a generation who look forward rather than back, and for many of them, techno is the soundtrack to the future.

Daniel Sharp, President

(Thumbnail Photo: "berlin-atonal-2015-©-camille-blake-182")