As we slowly but surely move towards the future we all want – where all buildings offer total accessibility – you might expect nightclubs to be among the last places to make the change. Being dark, cramped and normally downstairs they’re hard to get into and there is also a common preconception that less able people don’t want to go clubbing. They’re generally not seen as somewhere that less able people can access. We wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that London’s nightclubs are no go areas for wheelchair users – we used to think something similar.
You may be surprised to find out how much top London nightclubs have done to improve their accessibility. Although there are many which still aren’t accessible enough we’ve found that a lot of clubs now are. Here’s our guide to some of the best:
We’ll start off with a big one – Fabric – probably the daddy of London’s electronic music scene. It’s the sort of place which is so renowned that even people with no interest in clubbing at all (and their mum’s!) have heard of it. It might not be topping DJ Magazine’s list of the 100 best clubs in the world these days, as it has done in the past, but it’s still ranked a very respectable 4th on the list. It remains on the cutting edge of new music (far more than we can ever hope to be!) and mid-week live gigs have included the full live debut of producer-du-jour Nicolas Jaar.
The access is reasonably good. There is a lift for wheelchair users which takes you into Room 1. From there, there are ramps to get around including into Room 2 and to the disabled toilets. The problem is Room 3, which is only accessible by a spiral staircase. However, they do say that if you want to get into Room 3 then it is possible for the security guards to give you a lift. So it’s not too bad at all – we give Fabric 2.5 BBS Ticks.
Cargo, in Shoreditch, is a club and so much more – a restaurant, a bar and its terrace hosts brilliant BBQs. Based in a disused railway yard, Cargo is bare bricked and spacious, making for an ideal nightclub. The music is varied from “art punk through dubstep to psychedelic prog and wonk-pop” and events include an Open Decks night for all-comers to have a go at DJing.
They have big indoor and outdoor spaces, both of which are fully accessible. It’s flat at the entrance, throughout both areas and the transition from inside to the garden is also flat! They have a disabled toilet and the only stairs they have take you to the ladies but since the disabled toilets are on the ground floor that isn’t an issue anyway! We gave Cargo 2.5 BBS Ticks when we reviewed it.
West End nightclub, DSTRKT, is just about as opulent as it is vowelless. Despite being only miles apart, DSTRKT is as far from the Shoreditch scene as you can get. The style of the place is sleek, shiny and decadent rather than shabby chic and ‘hipstery’.
It has played host to some of the most A-list of A-list stars including Rihanna, Chris Martin, Stella McCartney, Drake… the list goes on. Clearly it’s a more exclusive scene than that which Shoreditch tends to offer. The music is RnB as well as house and club classics. That is unless Kanye West turns up again and demands that everyone listens to his new album on repeat or something.
We haven’t been there yet but we’ve found out that they have great disabled access, with a lift from the reception to the club. Once in the club it is mainly flat and they have a fully equipped disabled toilet! We gave them another 2.5 BBS Ticks. Dress up to the nines, bring your debit card and this could be a special night.
Back to Shoreditch for Bar Music Hall, a bar and club in a Victorian Warehouse, recommended to us by one of our younger members. It captures the East End vibe and has a vast amount of space with a large traditional dance floor. New bands and DJs provide a great atmosphere and there a lots of good drinks too – especially if you like Belgian beer.
There’s plenty of room, as you’d expect in an old Victorian Warehouse and it’s got a ‘stunning central pewter bar’. It’s all on one level with a disabled toilet and it’s not too expensive. We gave it 2.5 BBS Ticks when we reviewed it.
Bodo’s Schloss is surely a unique enterprise: a fake ski Alpine lodge in the middle of the capital. It’s certainly a bit different to all the local buildings in the Kensington area. It’s an interesting night out which has a bit of a theme without being tacky. They host an old school barn disco with Europe’s finest DJs in this après-ski Schloss.
The access is good, bordering on exceptional, as they have 2 steps into the restaurant which ‘disappear’ (we assume it’s retractable and a ramp is involved somewhere). This is a great display of somewhere really adapting to be more accessible. We like that a lot, plus there is a disabled toilet. Entrance is via reception at the Royal Garden. This is also a 2.5 BBS Ticks venue.
Now part of the Virgin empire, The Roof Gardens is a glamorous club, restaurant and rooftop garden. It’s probably not the place for cutting edge club music lovers but you’ll get classics, chart hits and some party tunes. It’s another very swanky place full of luxury touches – it’s seriously not a recession busting night out!!
The access appears to be easy as there is a ramp and a lift and for those with sticks there are stairs with a rail if you prefer. The disabled toilet also appears to be useable and not too far from everything. Everything is on one level. 2.5 BBS Ticks again.
Kingston’s Hippodrome might not be the coolest club in the world, nor the biggest or even the best place for some cheesy fun but it has the sneaky benefit of being just outside of London, so a lot easier for many people in the area. We’re adding it to our list because we’ve been told the access is good!
It provides a good reminder that many clubs fail to even try and accommodate wheelchairs. Thankfully, the Hippodrome proves to be another exception. Ramps are incorporated where appropriate so all the main bars and rooms can be accessed. The smoking area is also accessible via an alternate entrance. There is even a stand-alone disabled toilet. Sure, it’s not the prettiest looking, but it is a nightclub after all. The Kingston Hippodrome isn’t tremendously cool though so we gave it 2 BBS Ticks.
Bear in mind that we’re still talking about nightclubs here so things aren’t perfect – there may well be the odd problem on a night out but hopefully nothing too major!
Next week we’ll take a look at the access in some clubs outside of London!