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Amy Lamé, you rock. Now, let's get down to business...

By
Oliver Keens
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We were so impressed, proud and a little gobsmacked to learn that Amy Lamé has been given the job of London's first Night Czar this morning. Since the role was announced, we've had a rumbling fear that it would be given to someone of a more buttoned-up persuasion – a funky lawyer, a jeans-wearing CEO, that sort of person.

Thankfully though, Amy has the heart and passion that many nightlife aficionados were hoping for in a Czar. As well as having been Mayoress of Camden, being a well-respected broadcaster and a campaigner for grassroots venues, she has also crucially run Duckie, one of the flagship LGBT cabaret events in the world, since the mid-'90s. In short, she has perfect experience of all aspects of putting on a party in London. It's a great decision, one that will hopefully assure Londoners that she's 'on our side'.

Because, when you assess the work that needs to be done, and the strong feelings around the issues, it's all really rather galling. Let's take stock of the situation:

People are furious…

Last week, a man was jailed after sending a death threat to an Islington councillor responsible for shutting Fabric. There have been suggestions that similar incidents have also taken place. These are of course highly extreme examples, but still they demonstrate just how much anger there is right now about the deterioration of London’s nightlife.

But you’ve got an almost comically awesome job title…

Seriously, people lost their minds when it was announced that London was getting something called a 'Night Czar'…


Problem is, it's a great title, but where's the actual power

Though the job description for the role asked for the applicant to have ‘the ability to work in a political environment’, the Night Czar isn’t a typical political role. i.e., it has no overt power.

While the application states that the Czar will work with ‘the Mayor, the Night Time Commission, local authorities and The Met’, Lamé's main task is to create ‘a vision for London as a 24-hour city’ and a ‘roadmap showing how the vision will be realised’.

So even if Lamé proves to be a strategic genius, with the best idea ever for solving the city’s clubbing crisis, there’s still no actual guarantee that her vision will be implemented. Which won’t be her fault (except everyone will ignore that, and probably just blame her instead). The same thing happened to Sadiq, who was blamed for Fabric's closure even though it was a council matter and out of his hands. Speaking of councils...

Councils! There's shitloads of them!

As the shutting of Fabric showed, the most powerful people in the process are frequently local councillors, especially those who sit on licensing committees and have the power to revoke or amend venues’ licences. Venues currently engaged in fights for survival with councils include The Good Ship in Kilburn and The George Tavern in Tower Hamlets.

The Night Czar will have her work cut out if she wants to affect change at this crucial level. There are 33 local authorities across London, each with wildly differing priorities when it comes to nightlife and licensing. Some, for example, value wealth generation over nightlife heritage, while others might be in the process of regeneration and therefore more likely to side with property developers over venues. It’s a mixed bag.

The Night Czar salary is £35,000 for 2.5 days pro rata work per week. Even just to meet representatives from each council, on a 2.5 day a week work commitment, would take 13 straight weeks of work time. Which brings us to the fact that...

It's only a one-year job...

So far, the job is offered as just a one-year fixed contract. Is that enough time to even find the stationery cabinet at City Hall before the whole experiment ends? Maybe not, according to Mirik Milan: Amsterdam’s own Night Mayor since 2012 and a big inspiration for the creation of the London role. According to Milan, in a recent NME interview: ‘Changing nightlife in one week or one year will not happen. It’s about small steps. In Amsterdam it took us four years to get to the level we are at now.’

So, in conclusion:

It's crucial that we adjust our expectations for this position accordingly. Rome wasn’t built in a day – definitely not by one person on a 2.5 day per week contract. While the stakes are high and moods are twitchy and temperamental at best, the very presence of a Night Czar is a solid move in the right direction. Yes, there are potential flaws inherent, but Amy Lamé is a really positive choice for incumbent. By virtue of being experienced in the art of partying, she deserves the support and backing of those who want London's nightlife culture saved. In short, if we don't get behind her, we're even more fucked than we are now. Hard to imagine, but there we go. 

Read more about London's new Night Czar

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