A new London night czar is expected to be appointed by mayor Sadiq Khan this month, and whoever is appointed to this increasingly crucial role faces something of a mammoth task.
With venues and nightclubs closing at an alarming rate, including the high profile closure of Fabric back in September, the czar’s first priority is surely to stop the rot. Over the past five years, around 50% of nightclubs and 40% of live music venues across the capital have been lost. Should this trend continue, the capital will be lucky to harbour any kind of nightlife, let alone be considered a 24-hour city. And it will also hamper the UK's chances of reversing an equally worrying trend that has seen new artists struggle to breakthrough in 2016. As the number of venues across the capital plummets, so too do any chances of uncovering exciting new talent.
With culture secretary Karen Bradley and culture minister Matthew Hancock’s creative credentials far from convincing – at least as of yet – it is vital the successful candidate comes equipped with a demonstrable understanding of London nightlife. Not only will this be central to their ability to do a decent job, but also to instil faith in both the nightlife patrons and business owners with whom they will be working so closely.
Below, we've listed five key areas of London nightlife that the new czar will need to get to grips with sharpish if he or she is to reverse its current fortunes...
With an appeal pending on the enforced closure of arguably London’s most famous nightclub, the new night czar will need to get on top of the situation straight away. One would certainly hope that an amicable outcome can be reached for all concerned, as the loss of such an iconic venue would be a major blow for the capital. Khan has been vocal in his hope for a conclusion that pleases the authorities and clubbers. He and his czar need to take practical measures to ensure this happens.
Stop the closure of more live music venues
With 40% of London’s live music venues going out of business over the last five years, immediate measures need to be put in place to safeguard the future of the music industry. With nowhere to play, you have no live industry. Simple as that. In a year that has so far been notoriously difficult when it comes to breaking new acts, the absence of venues for artists to develop will make finding new breakthrough acts even more of an uphill challenge.
Unite the live sector with local authorities
The Fabric debacle serves as a fitting example of the stand off between the live sector, local councils and the police. Rather than working against one another, the czar needs to help each party understand the others’ concerns and help all work together. This issue is especially prevalent when it comes to unreasonable noise complaints. A great many venues have been hindered by noise complaints from properties built in close proximity to pre-existing music venues, which is, frankly, farcical.
Protect venue owners
An extension of the above. Venue owners need to be better understood by local authorities when it comes to the offences of the public. Some of the more damaging aspects of nightlife, such as drink and drug abuse, rear their head in most areas of society and are not exclusive to nightclubs and venues. And, let's make no bones about it, the onus really should be on the authorities rectify the situation, rather than expecting venue owners to police the local area. This needs to be better understood by the police and councils.
Rollout the 24-hour service to London overground
Great strides have been made this year as far as London transport goes, with a 24-hour tube service being introduced across certain underground lines, with more to be added shortly. However, no plans are currently in place to introduce a 24-hour service to London overground lines. This would no doubt be a move welcomed by those who live in London and want to enjoy its nightlife but live closer to an overground station. An extentsion of the 24-hour service to farther reaching, less central stations could also go a long way. In its current iteration, the service runs on Friday and Saturday. An extension of this service to run from Thursday to Sunday is certainly worth consideration.
For the time being, we'll have to sit tight before an appointment is made. Watch this space for further developments.