Up close and personal. #NOFILTER presents a monthly personal opinion by a protagonist in Belgian nightlife, club or electronic music scene on things that matter to him or her personally. Outspoken, but well thought out.

The closure of London’s iconic Fabric club sent shivers down my spine

"The closure of London’s iconic Fabric club sent shivers down my spine. Surely Fabric is a monument among monuments, an unsinkable ironclad of the night? The brutal truth is that the future is looking very bleak for one of the world’s foremost underground electronic music clubs. How could this happen?

I fear that a broader social problem of recreational drug (over)use is being used to specifically scapegoat a particular venue and it made me wonder, could something similar happen to a Belgian club or festival, and why are clubs and festivals always scrutinised by the media when there’s a tragic incident, a scrutiny I miss when for instance people come to pass during a sporting event for instance.

I’m not minimising what happened at Fabric, a death is a tragedy. I hope I’ll never be faced with anything similar during my tenure as manager of Fuse. I would also like to point out that I’m not in any way advocating the use of drugs, I am, however, trying to sketch the unclear situation an event organiser finds him or herself in.

I would like to urge our elected officials to stop turning a blind eye to the fact that drug use has been largely popularised and has transgressed into main stream culture, it’s more pervasive than you think; it’s in schools, universities, office buildings and dare I say even in government buildings. Please stop obstinately believing that drug use is confined to night clubs, festivals and seedy bars, and can we also stop marginalising the people who do use drugs? Some of these people handle drugs responsibly, others sorely need help. Marginalising and criminalising them is not the way forward. Imagine having a drinking problem and facing arrest, who of you dare ask for help? This is counter productive.

Why this reticence from our elected officials to launch a scientifically underpinned public debate on all drug use and it’s effects, not excluding our favourite social lubricant: alcohol. In my mind any substance that alters behaviour or the way we feel should be catalogued as a drug, not forgetting that some are benign, some are dangerous and some are lethal. Therefore; can we responsibly categorise and possibly legalise some substances and get a grip on the quantity and quality of what is being sold, the latter in my mind being the biggest threat of all. Imagine buying a bottle of something with no label on it. This is what is happening when people buy drugs now."

I can’t help but feel like we’re still dancing on egg shells when it comes to drugs

"From an event organiser’s perspective the Belgian legal framework prohibits security staff to systematically search a customer’s personal belongings,unless a special dispensation has been issued, which rarely is the case. Belgian law equally prohibits the use of illegal substances on the premises of a club or event.I’m sure you’ve noticed the contradiction and the extremely precarious position all event organisers find themselves in.

What I am advocating then is a clear stance from our law makers and our executive,either you acknowledge the fact that many people enjoy a buzz different from alcohol and see how we can channel this responsibly or you firmly reiterate the fact that drugs are illegal,but then you need to allow people on the ground to effectively combat the sale and use of such substances during their event,but not turn a blind eye and in the event of a casualty come down with the hammer.

Many countries including a growing number of states in the U.S. are now legalising the sale of cannabis and earning taxes in the process. The benefits of legalising are many. A legalised sale based on the Swedish systembolaget means on the one hand money is taken out of the criminal circuit and on the other hand the state earns taxes on every sale, there’s a control on what people are taking and you get a good idea of the quantity and quality of what’s being used plus you can actively start to help people with drug problems who now live in a precariously illegal situation, since asking for help makes them vulnerable to criminal prosecution.

After almost ten years managing Fuse in Brussels, I can’t help but feel like we’re still dancing on egg shells when it comes to drugs. We can’t allow it,but when it comes to preventing it our hands are largely tied.

In the meantime I will end as I started, I hope it never happens at my event."

Nick Ramoudt - Fuse, Brussels