The comedian, DJ and campaigner has been appointed to lead the charge for London's cultural scene
Today (November 4), London mayor Sadiq Khan and the city’s head of culture Justine Simons have announced the first city night czar.
Amy Lamé, a DJ, comedian, writer and campaigner who has stuck at the forefront of the fight to save LGBT venue the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, has been appointed to the position. London is the biggest city in the world to appoint a night czar, and it’s the first of its kind for the capital and the UK as a whole.
Speaking at a press conference today, Justine Simons stated that the mayoral office had received hundreds of applications from musicians, promoters and industry professionals. Sadiq Khan said: “I’m absolutely delighted to announce the appointment of London’s first ever night czar. The recent closure of the world-famous nightclub Fabric and the threats facing other venues across the capital show why Amy will be a much-needed ambassador for the city after dark.
Her proven track-record of helping save venues, her first-hand experience of the industry over the last two decades as well as her love for London and its nightlife are what make her such a great candidate for the role.”
American-born Lamé told Dazed: “I hope to bring my wealth of knowledge in running a club, and being part of a campaign to save the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to carry that across the rest of the capital.”
“I am 100 per cent the night czar for all Londoners,” she added.
Lamé was previously mayoress of Camden between 2010 and 2011, where she worked to promote the borough’s venues and clubs while also working with the local authority and committee. She’s also well known for presenting alongside Danny Baker on BBC London 94.9, and as the founder of Duckie at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
Khan promised to continue extending the work of the Night Time Commission, as well as appointing a new chair of the commission to work with Lamé. Research has shown that the night time economy contributes £26.3bn to London’s annual. In the last 5 years we’ve lost 40 per cent of the city’s live music venues, and over half of clubs and bars.
“Fabric is only representative of what is happening around the rest of the city... it’s symbolic as such an important club. Sadiq and I are of the same view of this – we would really like to see Fabric reopened” - Amy Lamé
They announced that several initiatives will be rolled out in the coming weeks, with one of the first being ‘night time surgeries’, which will see the night czar go out in London in the evening to speak directly to businesses, the general public, night time workers and residents so she can understand their issues, grievances or suggestions that would aid the night-time economy.
Khan pointed to some of the major issues facing London’s nightlife growth: in particular, the city’s overdevelopment of residential projects where venues sit, stressing to Dazed that “it’s about quality of life as well as the economy”. He and Lamé related that this was one of their major focus points.
“We have examples of developers building flats next door to live music venues. People move in and complain about the noise,” observed Khan. “The council then says to the venue they have to be a noise insulated premises. When they can’t afford to do so, they sell up. One of the ideas we have looked at is in Australia, the ‘agent of change’ principle, where if you want to build next door to a venue, you pay for insulation, rather than the venue. Issues around planning – so can we use a planning law to protect music venues. There has to be an exceptional reason to change use as a property owner, who may sell it to create luxury flats and make more money. We need to make it difficult to change the use.”
Both Khan and Justine Simons were pressed about the continuing campaign to save Farringdon nightclub Fabric – the cultural institution that’s license was revoked in the wake of drug-related deaths on site. “Fabric is a case study in how surely it should be possible for us to speak to people about an issue before it becomes a problem,” said Khan. “In future cases, we need to get the nightclub owner, the council, the committee, the police, the residents and others together to discuss these things before it becomes a problem. Is it possible to have standards in relation to these venues. There’s a court case appeal taking place now, it was the council that made the decision, the licence committee, to renew the licence.”
Speaking of the alarming rate of club closures and Fabric’s foreseeably perilous fate, Lamé said: “One of the big challenges is to steam that flow, but it’s a challenge I’m absolutely fit and ready to fight for. We need to open up a conversation because it shouldn’t have got to this point with Fabric. Unfortunately, it did, so what I’d like to see is a development of ideas around opening up conversations with councillors, licensing committees, venue owners, punters, local residents so everyone feels their voices are heard.”
“There’s no other massive city like London with a night czar or a night mayor. That shows our commitment to nightlife in London. The economic case is unarguable, but it’s also about the life we want to lead” - Sadiq Khan
“Fabric is only representative of what is happening around the rest of the city,” she continued. “It’s symbolic as such an important club. Sadiq and I are of the same view of this – we would really like to see Fabric reopened.”
“Councillors do what they think is right in listening to residents, the police do what they think is right because their concern is around anti-social behaviour and issues around safety,” Khan added. “The nightclub owners do what they think is right reasonably to make their profits. Neighbours do what they think is right in complaining about noise.”
“We’ve been speaking to smaller cities like Amsterdam, and others, who manage to have an ecosystem that works for everyone. There’s no other massive city like London with a night czar or a night mayor. That shows our commitment to nightlife in London. The economic case is unarguable, but it’s also about the life we want to lead.”
Several cities across the world have long had similar ‘night mayors’ in place to see cities benefit socially, culturally and economically from their nightlife. “We worked really closely with Mirik Milan, the night mayor of Amsterdam, as well as Berlin and San Francisco,” said Justine Simons, hopefully. “I think we’ll see more and more cities take on these posts. Amsterdam have been fantastic and Berlin. They’ve been doing this for years and it has really informed us, and now we’ve got to tweak them and make sure they’re right for London.”