Latest victim of capitalism/Boris Johnson/the coalition (take your pick) is legendary London venue the 100 Club. For our generation the 100 Club is synonymous with the birth of punk – a movement Thee Faction were involved with but not part of (anarchy? Pah…). For other generations it brought them the earliest R&B, skiffle, jazz and so on. Slap bang in the heart of London was a proper venue that looked and felt like a working mens’ club sandwiched between the temples to consumerism of Oxford Street. It felt like a great big two fingered salute to the nonsense around it.
But the nonsense around it has had the last laugh. Cos the 100 Club is closing. According to Jeff Horton, director of the club:
“The writing has been on the wall, so to speak, since the rent increased by 45% in 2007. It was an increase that was unsustainable. Just as pertinent have been the increase year on year in Business Rates that have now reached a ludicrous level of £1000 per week, and now the Government are increasing VAT to 20% from January. There have been over a dozen increases in duty on alcohol in the last two years or so as well, meaning that my supplier’s bills have increased some 40% in that period.
The bottom line is that the club has a liability to it’s landlords and HMRC that suck 80% of it’s income out of the business. How can that possibly be right? The business rates, for instance, don’t include refuse collection.”
As we said, take your pick of the usual enemies. Landlords? London’s government? The Coalition government? They’ve all had a hand in it. Capitalism tends towards monopoly. Fact. The free market utopia of small scale producers and businesses trading happily with each other, using the market as the ideal medium of exchange to ensure the mutual spread of wealth, is 100% bollocks. If you’ve got Top Shop, Debenhams, HMV and the rest surrounding you, and a government committed to helping big business, the little guy is going to be shafted.
Don’t get us wrong. We’re no cheerleaders for the small businessman. But they’re way less scary than monopoly capitalism in league with government. As Horton says:
“when you have a law regarding commercial rents that stipulate they can only go up, what is to prevent another increase happening again in 2012 when the next Rent Review is due?? Is the increase going to be 45% for the third review in a row? These increases do not in any way reflect the social or economic climate at any given time. It is purely a way of legally fleecing small, and in all probability, medium sized businesses, certainly in Central London. It is a practice that needs to be stopped……and now.
In my opinion HMRC are using the same Corporate model in raising and accruing Tax.”
The 100 Club seemed to be an anomaly. Its face didn’t fit in the Oxford Street of the 21st Century (which looks just like an overgrown, overblown version of your local shopping centre). And now it’s going.
“The 100 Club, now the oldest live music and entertainment venue on the Planet, will shut its doors for the final time at the end of the year unless a sponsor, funding or a buyer can be found, after accruing losses of almost £100,000 a year for the last three years.”
Lovely though it would be to find such a saviour, it’s just so much pissing in the wind. Give it a decade and the only place you’ll be seeing live music is an identikit chain-venue – one in every city – with a centralised procurement policy, like books from Waterstones or records from HMV. You reckon such a venue-chain would put Thee Faction on? Or the next Sex Pistols or Clash or Dr Feelgood? Or Elvis?
The answer doesn’t lie in legislation, or individual benefactors, or tweaks to the tax system. The answer lies in the mass of the people standing up and making it clear that this isn’t what we want. The closure of the 100 Club is just a symptom. A depressing symptom. But let’s attack the root cause of all this, comrades.
Antonio Gramsci cautioned us to exercise pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will. A facebook group, or a benefit show, ain’t gonna save the 100 Club or solve the underlying problems of monopoly capitalism. But it will be a vital part of the overall war of position, and that’s what we’ve got to fight. So whatever fight is on to save the 100 Club, count us in. Jeff Horton: we’re on your side.