A panel of philosophers debated the morality of raving in this podcast episode

Floating Points and Daphni at Printworks London
© Jake Davis

The return of clubs was the subject of BBC Radio 4’s latest Moral Maze episode.

The return of clubs and nightlife culture has been a primary talking point for many in recent weeks, be it those working within night time industries or others observing from the sidelines. 

Earlier this week (28 July), BBC Radio 4’s live debate programme Moral Maze also turned its attention to clubs and, more specifically, the morality of partying. The debate panel was comprised of Novara Media journalist Ash Sarkar, The Times columnist and social commentator Melanie Phillips, historian Tim Stanley and priest Giles Fraser. “There’s a balance to be struck between freedom and responsibility,” said debate chair Michael Buerk in the programme’s introduction, while also weighing up what he called, “the moral value of revelry.” 

For roughly 40 minutes, the panel and its witnesses – experts called upon to discuss programme topics – moved through talking points such as vaccine passports and other mandated measures, lost youth experiences, self-responsibility and the morals of raving post-pandemic. Sarkar, who described herself as “part of the party hard left” said: “I cannot stand that strand of intellectualism which looks at people having fun and decided that sneering at them is the best way to prove how clever and worldly you are.”

She added, “I personally believe that there’s beauty in a crowd and, what’s more, in a nightclub it’s not about individualism or atomization, it’s a collective experience reaching beyond yourself and creating something; a vibe, a wave of joy with other people.”

Elsewhere, others offered opposing opinions. “I wouldn’t shut nightclubs because I think you have a right to be silly, but I am generally suspicious of fun,” said Stanley at one point. “I’m suspicious of other people having fun, because in my experience it usually leads to noise and criminal damage. But, I’m also suspicious in my own case because I think partying is about being mindless – I don’t see how you can be both mindless and moral.”

“It’s not very fun to shove something up your nose and then go on a dancefloor,” he offered a little later, while arguing that the joys of clubbing stemmed from spontaneity, and that this joy would be killed off by things like vaccine passports or pre-club testing. He quickly put the phrasing of his comment down to his “naivety”.

During the programme, there were also attempts to compare electronic music and culture to classical, with comments like “rave music is not Beethoven…rap is not Shakespeare” made. To these, Sarkar replied: “Listen to Floorplan and then tell me that there’s nothing in there which is moving, transcendent or indeed even sublime.”

Listen back to the programme here and read our recent investigation into how vaccine passports may impact nightlife and club culture.