Durham reacts to Klute’s closure: “The best worst night out in Durham”

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After Palatinate previously reported that Klute had closed down after over 50 years of club nights, dances, and drinks, former staff members and visitors of the establishment flooded to social media to mourn the loss of what was famously known as Europe’s worst nightclub. 

Klute closed on 20th April, although no public announcement had been made by Tokyo Industries, the owners of Klute. It is unclear whether the closure is permanent or short term. 

Since then, multiple petitions have been formed calling to “Save Our Klute”, with a combined number of over 400 signatures. Palatinate spoke to Will Wolstenholme and Ella Medley, who started the SAVE OUR KLUTE campaign on Instagram: “We first discovered the tragic closing of Klute in the Palatinate article. After the initial shock had subsided, we decided we needed to take immediate action.

“A staple of the student and Durham nightlife experience, Klute is notorious for being the best worst night out in Durham, and whilst everyone knows it’s an awful club, it’s our awful club.

“We believe that without this venue, Durham nightlife will never be the same. We went to every single SNK [Sunday Night Klute] of 2nd term in our 1st year, and shudder at the thought of prospective students never getting to sip on a sweet sweet quaddie.”

“Whilst everyone knows it’s an awful club, it’s our awful club”

Will Wolstenholme and Ella Medley

Amongst those more affected by the closure are the staff at Klute, who were mostly Durham University students. One staff member of the nightclub explained that, “the closure is very inconvenient for me, this is my last term in Durham so I don’t think many employers would be willing to have me on just for ten weeks. I would have appreciated it if we had been told earlier.” They told Palatinate that they found out that the nightclub was shutting on 17th April. 

Annie Collier, who also worked at Klute, told Palatinate, “I have lost my job with quite abrupt notice, which has meant I have had to look for a new one as quickly as possible. Not only this but everyone who worked at Klute really loved it, we all got on really well and it was such a fun experience working there, which makes it quite sad that it’s all gone, as well as the great nights that were spent there when we weren’t working too.”

All staff members were offered employment in a nightclub in Newcastle. However, according to Ms Collier, since most staff members were students at Durham University, these offers were not “feasible”. 

Palatinate has asked Tokyo Industries for comment, but has not received a reply.

According to its website, Klute opened in 1971 and was famously named the worst nightclub in Europe by FHM Magazine after it originally was rated the second worst, but had the winning title bestowed on it when the previous worst club burned down. 

Klute in action (Image: Emma Clarke)

Dillon Blevins, the manager at Klute at the time of its closure, told Palatinate that, “As a former student of Durham University from 2017, I experienced Klute in its element firsthand. At no point was Klute the worst nightclub in Europe. Klute wasn’t even the worst nightclub in Durham.”

He continued, “During my run as manager, at times we leaned into Klute’s reputation, and at others we tried to steer away from it, with little change either way. From what I have seen from the frontline of the Durham night out, I believe that while Klute’s closure isn’t solely due to changing student preferences, it’s clear that the way we spend our leisure time and our money has completely shifted.

“Today’s students are more cautious with their spending and tend to favour an early night over excessive drinking, likely influenced by both financial limitations and the lingering effects of the pandemic. This isn’t just about one venue; it’s indicative of broader changes in student culture.”

It is not just in Durham that well known nightclubs have closed: in February, the BBC reported that Pryzm and Atik clubs had closed across the country as their owner, Rekom UK, became “the latest casualty in the cost-of-living crisis.”

Luke, who runs a psychedelic not-for-profit music collective based in Durham and Bristol, Fractal Nights, echoed a similar belief. He told Palatinate, “There has been a big change in attitudes and changing state as well […] to live in Durham is extremely expensive these days. I think people have less money first of all, and second of all I think there’s been an attitude in recent years where people just assume that these [club] events just happen without hours of setup and prep.”

He explained that he had often heard the question, “Why pay money to go to an event when you can go to a club for free?”

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020, nearly 400 clubs have closed permanently

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020, nearly 400 clubs have closed permanently, according to the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) who represent the industry. The NTIA are calling for the government to reduce VAT levels for nightclubs to 12.5% to help support nightclubs in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis. 

Fractal Nights had hosted many events at Klute in the past year, beginning in the Klute basement, “because we knew it was a space that wasn’t being utilised and we thought it would be a really good opportunity to showcase music that was even more alternative than our usual.”

Their events progressed from around 70 attendees to 450, when, in February, “we did the first, or first in recent memory, event at Klute which had all three floors in use.”

Fractal Nights had planned for another event using all three floors in Klute on 8th June, with Luke telling Palatinate that, “I’ve already booked people for that event and I’m not looking forward to telling them that the booking is no longer a thing […] so it was a real shame for us on that front.”

He praised Klute, saying that, during these music events, there was “full liberty and freedom to do what we wanted. And there was full creativity in the venue.”

Palatinate also spoke to Lee, who runs Detonation Events, a club night focused on North Eastern artists that ran regularly in Klute. He said, “the events in Klute have always been good events with plenty of like-minded people through the door there for a good time, with a good atmosphere and banging music with top North East talent doing sets.”

“When Klute shut down I was gutted because we were only told two days before our event on 20th April 2024,” he explained, “Luckily for us we secured a new venue at Loft nightclub on North Road in Durham, where we held the event and will be the new home for Detonation going forward.”

Once ranked the 76th top DJ in the world in 2010, drum and bass DJ John B started his career in Klute and was a regular face at these club nights across Durham. He told Palatinate that he was “very sad to hear about any nightclub closing, but especially one so close to my heart”

He continued, “My first ever club gig was there! […] I have fond memories of playing there and looking back it was quite a brutal training ground as a DJ – as in, it can’t get much worse than this, so if you can manage to play a good set here you can do it anywhere!”

“The ladies’ toilets would leak water onto your head in the DJ booth downstairs [..] and the only headphones were permanently connected to their set up, and was an old 80s telephone – not actual headphones! Oh and of course you did the lights and the fog machine yourself too! Good times!”

Several previous visitors of the nightclub took to social media to share their favourite memories of Klute, from the “sticky carpets” to “slimy stairs”. “Late 90s was a cracking time in Klute! Loved it, proper dive,” said one Facebook comment, with another saying “Had some good nights in there late 70s! Met the love of my life there.”

Sebastian Payne, former Durham student and current director of UK Onward, a right-wing think tank, took to X (formerly Twitter), to share his reaction to the club closing, posting “Rome has fallen.”

Similarly, journalist Jeremy Vine posted on X, “This is nothing short of a disaster.”

Palatinate spoke to Mr Vine, “This was known as the worst nightclub in the world, certainly in Europe, and yet the fact that it survived at least [20] years after being given that label shows the pure quality of Klute. Along with all my Durham friends, I’m shocked and upset that Klute is closing its doors.

“This is like Durham Cathedral being turned into flats. It cannot be allowed to happen. The local council should manage it in the public interest while a buyer is found.”

“This is like Durham Cathedral being turned into flats. It cannot be allowed to happen”

Jeremy Vine

The nightclub was originally owned by former Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister Dominic Cummings’ uncle Phil, where Mr Cummings himself worked in the cloakroom. He regularly looks back at his time working in Klute: in November 2023, he said on X that “nothing is more ‘real world’ than Klute nightclub.”

In 2010, Mr Cummings was appointed director of the company Klute Limited, a position he still holds today, though the company is now dormant. Klute was bought by Tokyo Industries in 2013, a company which operates almost 50 bars, nightclubs, and other venues across the UK, as well as some internationally.

On hearing the news that Klute has closed, Mr Cummings posted on X, “Farewell Klute, the best nightclub outside of Moscow, after working there dealing with SW1 felt like easy mode.”

Current students also reflected on Klute’s closure, with one saying their best memory was “seeing a girl that committed to SNK whilst on crutches” and another saying it was their “first ever clubbing experience! A fond [Josephine] Butler tradition.”

SNK (Sunday Night Klute) is Klute’s biggest event of the week, calling for visitors to “wipe your feet on your way out”, and its signature “quaddie” drink, which contained two double shots of Vodka. In 2015, the nightclub agreed to replace the vodka used for “quaddies” with a less alcoholic spirit, Vodkat, after Durham Constabulary called for the drinks to stop being sold as part of a licensing review. 

Despite its popularity, Woody Jeffay, a Durham University student who worked at Klute, told Palatinate that the nightclub “had to go down to only opening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday” in January, and that “it was only reliably busy on the Sunday” for SNK. 

Mr Jeffay continued, “I’ll be sad to see it go, it’s a Durham institution – it’s been around longer than most people here. It was a bit grotty but it was the friendliest club in Durham. You wouldn’t get the personal, warm Klute customer service at any other club.”

“It’s a shame because with some tender loving care I think Klute could become something really cool.”

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