Is clubbing in a pandemic ever ethical?

As society has been tentatively emerging from various forms of COVID-19 lockdown over the last few months, each of us has been faced with a complex set of ethical and personal questions. How do we balance the ongoing need for vigilance against our desire for personal autonomy and social contact? How do we assess the competing risks involved in a still-unfolding pandemic: the potential damage to our mental health caused by staying isolated, or going out and increasing our odds of catching or spreading the virus? Is it safe to resume normal life? What does ‘normal’ even look like now?

Those uncertainties have been particularly visible and contentious in the dance music scene. Perhaps that’s not surprising: a culture founded on the collective joy of people sweating together in poorly-ventilated basements was always going to face particular challenges from COVID-19. But as the pandemic drags on, and the boundaries around socially responsible behaviour become blurred, the ethical conflict between communal self-preservation and our urge to party has become more heated.