London Student

London’s Night Czar : a year in review

Amy Lamé’s appointment was met with both positivity and scepticism, and now, more than a year after her appointment on 4 November 2016, her first year in office is under review.

This month marks the one year anniversary of the Mayor of London’s appointment of Amy Lamé as London’s first Night Czar, inviting London residents to question the progress she has made.

As Night Czar, Amy Lamé is responsible for transforming the capital into a prospering 24-hour city, with efficient transportation, profitable night time venues and safer environments. Her appointment was part of Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s plan to inspire growth in the night-time economy, following in the footsteps of other cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin and San Francisco. .

For those under the impression that London already is a 24-hour city, Khan insists that well-organised planning could add billions to the night-time economy. Recent research reveals that the night-time economy contributes to £26.3bn of London’s annual GDP; however, this figure is expected to rise to £28.3bn by 2029.

The office of the Mayor of London published a post on 3 November 2017 reporting the top seven  things Lamé had achieved in office thus far. Keeping Fabric, the world renowned techno and dance music nightclub in Farringdon, open tops the list, as is the scrapping of Form 696 and crowdfunding to refurbish the Rio Dalston, an independent cinema.

Her appointment last year coincided with widespread calls to save Fabric from planned closure after two teenagers died taking drugs on the club’s premises. Lamé facilitated discussions between Fabric’s owners, the Metropolitan Police and Islington Council. Both Lamé and Khan consider this a major highlight of her first year in office, and cemented the need for a night czar in conversations around the night-time economy.

However, the level of ownership Lamé can claim over having saved the nightclub is unclear. There were a multitude of other groups who played a significant role in protesting the club’s potential closure; Lamé was not the sole benefactor.

As part of her ambition to encourage night life,  Lamé encouraged the Met’s review of Form 696, a risk assessment form for music events that grime and rap artists have long said unfairly targets them. It will be scrapped later this year, another victory for Lame’s first year as Night Czar.  

While the Met claim that the decision was inspired by the increase of safety standards at music venues, Sadiq Khan did call for a review a year ago in conjunction with Lamé.  Form 696 affected popular artists such as the grime artist Giggs, who claims that in the past, his concerts have been cancelled because of the form. UK Music asserted that this form “assumes music is a public order issue and potentially harmful”.

Lamé has supported a landmark case to ensure that the site of the Joiners Arms, an LGBTQ+ venue that is facing closure, queer by supporting a landmark case to ensure it will be replaced with another LGBTQ+ venue. In the last ten years, London has lost an overwhelming 58% of its LGBTQ+ venues, which Lamé has committed to reversing. Lamé does have a respectable track record in this arena; she saved the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a one of the capital’s legendary LGBTQ venues, from being developed into new apartments.

Moreover, Lamé recommended Rio Cinema to Crowdfund London, which culminated in £40,000 worth of funding for the purpose of restoring the cinema. The Dalston art deco cinema is a non-profit community facility, meaning these funds collected were crucial to the cinema’s refurbishment plans. The cinema is an important venue to London’s students, offering student ticket prices and events for young people.

Lamé boasts of a commitment to continue to diversify London’s nightlife scene and transform the city into a 24-hour hub. However, the list of concrete accomplishments during her first year runs short and the list of demands grows daily.

As Night Csar, it is crucial that Lamé do more to make the night time economy more accessible to students and young people, more generally. Students comprise a large percentage of London’s population, and increasingly more so. Student numbers in the UK (people aged 18-24 enrolled in full-time education) have nearly doubled since 1992. She met with students at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Goldsmiths about influencing nightlife culture, but affordability is yet to be addressed.

Lamé promoted a safer London for women by hosting the first Women’s Night Safety Summit to help create a Women’s Safety Charter. While a valuable step in the right direction towards addressing the different needs of Londoners,  there was little evidence provided by Lamé, in her own post, that women have felt noticeably safer since her appointment.  

This past year has also witnessed Transport for London stripping Uber, the ride hailing app, of its license to operate in London. Undoubtedly, if Uber was to lose its appeal in December to  continue operating in London, there will be an impact on nighttime safety. It will be interesting to see whether Lamé can negotiate a compromise as transportation appears at the forefront of conversations regarding both safety and London’s development as a 24 hour city.

The night-time economy contributes significantly to London’s status as being a vibrant and dynamic place to live and work, and it employs 1.3 million people.

But it has a long way to go before we can say it is truly on similar levels as other metropolises that occupy comparable roles. Khan and Lamé are  capable of significantly changing the night time fabric of the city – but they will have to do more to prove their worth to London’s residents.

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Imogen Evans

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