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Mayor Sadiq Khan, Ksenia Zemtsova and Philippine Nguyen from Art Night

Oi, Sadiq! Why is it so hard to throw an all-night party in London?

The founders of Art Night sit down with the Mayor of London to ask why the capital still doesn’t feel like a 24-hour city

By James Manning

Every few weeks we’re giving some of our favourite Londoners the chance to put one big question to the Mayor. Ksenia Zemtsova and Philippine Nguyen are the founders of Art Night – London’s awesome, free late-night art party. But as their question for Sadiq Khan reveals, it’s never easy to get permission to run through the early hours…

Ksenia ‘Oi, Sadiq! London aspires to be a 24-hour city – but its pubs, clubs, museums, restaurants and other venues close much earlier than in other major capitals. After four years of Art Night, we still struggle to run our events until late, whereas similar festivals in 30 cities around the world often continue until 6am. How can London develop its culture beyond 11pm?’

Sadiq ‘When I first became Mayor, we set up a commission to report on the night-time economy, and we’re now acting on some of their recommendations. I also appointed London’s first ever Night Czar to work with councils and businesses for a thriving night-time economy.’

Ksenia ‘But still, the few night-time cultural offers – like Tate Lates – all finish at 10pm! When we bring over partners from Paris, Amsterdam or Berlin, they’re always very surprised that they’re not able to perform or work after midnight.’

Sadiq ‘It’s changing.’

Ksenia ‘It’s hard to see that. It still feels like there are lots of venues losing their licences or closing. And we’ve worked across six London boroughs and have always struggled to do anything late.’

Mayor Sadiq Khan, Ksenia Zemtsova and Philippine Nguyen

‘Whether they’re property developers or councils, landowners often insist on an 11pm curfew.’

Ksenia ‘We’ve been asked to close some events at 9pm! I think perception of late-night culture is still a problem. In a lot of countries, it would be much easier to run an event until 2am, because culture and entertainment aren’t associated with anti-social behaviour. Whereas that association is still very strong in London.’

Sadiq ‘If you were to say “night-time economy”, many people would think of anti-social behaviour. We’ve got to change things, so that councils realise night-time culture isn’t the bogeyman. Councils are in charge of licensing, so we need to address their concerns. We want to persuade boroughs to have more on offer, particularly in the evenings and the weekends.’

Ksenia ‘And yet licensing and security worries still make it really hard to run late-night activities like visual arts in the public realm.’

Sadiq ‘At City Hall we’re bending over backwards to involve the cultural sector. I mean, we’re criticised for doing too much culture! But it’s really important to improve London’s night-time culture. The average age of a Londoner is 34 – and 34-year-olds don’t just sit at home and watch Netflix.’

Know an amazing Londoner who deserves a chat with the Mayor? Let us know!

Fancy a late one? Discover London after 2am

Printworks by Carolina Farualo

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