This article was updated on February 26th, 2019.
Do you remember when you were 16 and clubbing was something you aspired to? You’d graduated from drinking Strongbow on the common, you’d been served once in a pub – it was time to turn your hand to clubbing. You had a few golden years, weekends frittered away getting off with people on sweaty dance floors, stumbling into daylight on a Sunday morning with no money and no way of getting home. Then the clubs started closing and self-care happened; the thought of taking a pinger at a warehouse off the M40 was the height of gauche, so we all stayed in, burned incense and ate loads of cheese because that’s what hygge’s about, guys.
Anyway, we’re bored of that now. We’ve shed the camembert paunch and the people want to club again. Even Sadiq Khan wants us to club again, appointing a Night Czar, otherwise known as Amy Lamé, to make London a 24-hour party capital and watch over the drunk and disorderly.
Someone else who wants us to club again is Seb Glover, cofounder of Fold, the first licensed 24-hour UK venue, which opened its doors last Saturday. Hailed as London’s answer to Berghain, it has big shoes to fill. "We strive to do things differently in London, cultivating a more continental approach, creating a place where you can spend extended periods or coming and going as you please," says Glover.
Fold is the first of its kind in the UK. The 24-hour dance floor licence means that revellers can stay out all night, go home for a nap and come back. This is great news for perennial queue-dodgers; staggered entry ticket times and a healthy 550-person capacity (even before the second room opens as is planned in the coming months) means there’s very little waiting around to get in. Tickets are also fairly priced, with early birds going for a modest tenner – considering you could be there for an entire day and night, it’s good value for money, if not, perhaps, your health.
The act of coming and going from a club as you please is still an alien concept in London, where placing one’s toe outside a club’s entrance usually leads to swift and unceremonious ejection by a steroid-addled bouncer. Not at Fold. The owners have introduced myriad measures to make clubbing a leisurely experience: there are lockers to safely stow away your possessions, membership fobs to bypass the queue when you nip out and, if you’re a crypto wanker, you can use your 0.0001 bitcoin to buy precisely one beer.
It's the people who add colour to this venue. Gaggles of boys, girls and non-binary clubbers dressed in an assortment of latex and leather
The venue itself is tucked away on a not-so-scenic industrial estate in Canning Town, but it’s not supposed to be pretty – this is a place to listen to music, loudly, and do whatever you want, away from prying eyes. Inside it is strictly no frills; there is one dark room, a bar and a smoking area. It is the people who add colour to this venue. Gaggles of boys, girls and non-binary clubbers dressed in an assortment of latex, leather and not much else crowd the main room, immersed in what sounds to my ears like a repetitive foghorn. To put it simply, if you would rather listen to Drake than Carl Cox, then you probably won’t like it here.
Having said that, there is an air of inclusivity and lack of judgement that you might not find at other mainstream London venues. There is a strong LGBTQ contingent and more bondage than I’ve seen in my clearly very sheltered life. Glover’s aim was to create a space for Londoners to "disconnect from the intense pressures of London life", where freedom of expression, positivity and inspiration could take form – and he has certainly achieved that, if "disconnect from pressures" means "wear a girdle".
The demographic is also older than your average nightclub; most people are in their mid-20s but there are small clusters of silver-haired veterans. One of these is Tony Hillgate, 46, from north London, who has been frequenting warehouse parties on the fringes of the capital since the acid house days of the late 1980s. "I’m here for the music and the good vibes," he tells me. "It doesn’t matter what people look like, where they’re from or what you do, this is a place to unwind and dance." Off the beaten track, Fold is not a club where one goes to 'be seen'; people come here to lose themselves in the music and the darkness.
It's not everyone’s cup of tea, however. Gemma Samworth, 25, travelled to Fold for a friend’s birthday. When asked what she thinks of the night, she is in two minds: "I definitely think it’s a cool venue and loads of my friends love this sort of vibe. I’m not the world’s biggest techno fan so the music could be more varied but I think 24-hour clubs are a really good idea. I’m just sad about how much my Uber home will cost."
Although Canning Town station is a 15-minute walk away (there is a shorter route if you go via the underpass), the club is basically in the middle of nowhere and I’m not overly sure what you’d do if you wanted to leave for a bit – maybe climb into one of the many skips that sit on the industrial estate? But there is gourmet street food and cheapish drinks, so you won’t starve if you do try and stick it out for the whole 24 hours.
While I'm not convinced Fold is the answer to our clubbing crisis, one thing’s for sure: It’s a truly immersive experience and definitely worth visiting, particularly if you’re a fan of techno or house music. We’ve a long way to go to salvage the clubbing scene in our capital, particularly if we want to compete with cities like New York and Berlin. In the meantime, I’ve had enough of hanging around in people’s living rooms at 2am, searching for things to do. It’s high time we blew out those candles, threw down our courgetti and went 'out out' again.