I don’t think anyone has ever said, “When I grow up, I want to be a night czar.”
In fact, to my knowledge, no one has ever graduated with a degree in ‘night czardom’! However, night czars or ‘night mayors’ as they are called in many other cities around the world, are becoming an increasingly essential part of what is required for a city to thrive during the night-time hours.
Last November, I was appointed London’s first-ever night czar by the mayor, Sadiq Khan. With this appointment, London became by far the biggest city in the world to appoint a night czar, following in the footsteps of Amsterdam, San Francisco and Toulouse.
So what does a night czar actually do? Well, if you take a slice of the work of every deputy mayor in the capital – transport; policing and crime; planning and regeneration; business and culture; and then think about how these areas operate during the night-time hours – then you’ve pretty much got the measure of the breadth of my work as night czar.
I’ve been at the forefront of London’s night-time economy for many years. When I moved to the UK (from the US), I worked at a late-night café bar in Soho. I’ve run my own club night, Duckie, at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern for over 21 years and have seen pretty much everything there is to see from London’s diverse nightlife.
It’s my job to ensure that London can become a truly 24-hour city and, alongside the chair of the Night Time Commission, Philip Kolvin QC, develop a vision and a roadmap of how we’re going to achieve it.
We all know about the threats to the capital’s night-time economy – new developments, rising property prices, business rate hikes and changing consumer habits all pose risks to London’s status as a 24-hour city.
Despite these difficulties, there are lots of reasons to be optimistic. London’s night-time economy contributes £26.3billion (40% of the UK’s night-time economy) and supports one in eight jobs in the capital. This is forecast to rise to £28.3bn by 2029. Recent developments like the Night Tube, now running on five lines in the capital, are boosting local night-time economies across the city and opening up new opportunities for growth.
New developments, rising property prices, business rate hikes and changing consumer habits all pose risks to London’s status as a 24-hour city
As night czar, I’m looking to maximise the potential of these exciting developments, bringing stakeholders from across the night-time industries together to shape the capital’s future as a global hotspot for nightlife.
An important part of my job is talking with Londoners about the kind of life at night they want. My ‘Night Surgeries’ are an opportunity for me to visit all areas of the city and listen to everyone’s aspirations for what a 24-hour London can look like. I’ve visited hospitals, fire stations and homeless shelters, as well as bars, restaurants and even libraries. Thankfully, Londoners are not shy in sharing their views – as I want to be sure I’m representing everyone in the capital.
Over the next few months, I’ll be looking at how we can protect London’s nightclubs, pubs, music venues and LGBT+ spaces, working with the mayor to bring in important planning legislation such as Agent of Change, which places the onus on developers that build residential properties next to music venues and nightclubs to soundproof their buildings to ensure revellers and residents can co-exist peacefully.
I’ll also be looking at how we can make women feel safer at night, and will hold London’s first-ever Women’s Safety Summit. This will be a gathering of change-makers and activists, led by London’s deputy mayors for transport, culture and policing. We’ll be looking to draft a Women’s Night Safety Charter for the capital, which will outline best practices that can be adopted by boroughs throughout the city to protect women during the night-time hours.
By using City Hall’s unique convening powers, for the first time ever, we’re able to bring developers, venue owners, business people, the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London, councillors, night-time shift workers, revellers and residents around the table to talk about what they want from the capital at night. Whether they want to party until four in the morning, get to and from work safely, or they just want a good night’s sleep – my job as night czar is to bring people together so we can strike the right balance and ensure the capital’s night-time economy and culture can become the envy of the world.
You thought that New York was the city that never sleeps? Watch out! London is coming.
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