In 2016, London appointed Amy Lamé as its first Night Czar. SmartCitiesWorld talks to Amy about this intriguing job title and its role in the smart city.
A number of cities globally are starting to appoint ‘Night Mayors’ – Amsterdam has one and Washington recently appointed a Director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture.
In 2016, London announced Amy Lamé as its first Night Czar. SmartCitiesWorld talks to Amy about this intriguing job title and its role in the smart city.
SCW: What is the role of the Night Czar? Why does London need one?
AL: My role as Night Czar is to make sure that the capital works for everyone at night – whether you’re working, running errands or enjoying your spare time. London’s economy doesn’t just stop at 6pm.
The night-time economy plays a huge role in the capital’s success – employing a third of the capital’s workforce and contributing billions to the economy. In fact, the economy is growing faster at night than in the day.
My role as Night Czar is to make sure that the capital works for everyone at night.
That’s why in 2016 the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, appointed a Night Czar, as he realised it’s crucial that we plan properly for London at night.
I stand up for the 1.6 million Londoners who usually work evenings and nights and in the face of rising rates, rents and increased development, I bring businesses, local authorities and Londoners together to work out a balanced and sustainable plan for life at night in the capital.
SCW: What was your route to this position?
AL: I’ve worked in the cultural and creative industries for more than two decades as a writer, broadcaster, DJ and performer. I co-founded the Olivier-Award-winning arts company and club night, Duckie.
I also founded RVT Future, a voluntary LGBT+ community group campaigning to preserve the iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern. In 2010/11, I served as Mayoress of Camden and spent my year highlighting the history and culture of live music and nightlife in the borough. In 2016, I took on the role of London’s first ever Night Czar.
SCW: What does being a smart city mean to you?
AL: Being a smart city means putting digital technology and data at the heart of everyday life. It means making the most of technology to solve the challenges we face as a city.
The Mayor has been clear that he wants London to become the world’s leading smart city.
The Mayor has been clear that he wants London to become the world’s leading smart city. He is working hard to make London the global home of the data economy, to seize the benefits of new artificial intelligence, and inspire a new generation of inventors and developers to make our city even better.
SCW: Can you describe a typical day/night?
AL: A key part of my job is working alongside businesses, local authorities and communities.
No day is ever the same, but every day I meet with a range of people from across the city to discuss their needs for the capital’s nightlife. I could be meeting with venue operators to help them troubleshoot and find solutions, chairing the Night Time Borough Champions Network to share innovative approaches local authorities are taking to help London’s life at night thrive, or out and about on a Night Surgery to speak with businesses and residents about opportunities in their local area at night.
SCW: What is your #1 priority right now?
AL: My number-one priority is supporting London’s venues and getting even more open.
Our night-time culture is the most diverse in the world and is growing faster than the wider economy – and our beloved pubs and venues are at the heart of that. That’s why we’re working so hard to support new venues opening, and succeeding in keeping existing venues open.
We are taking unprecedented steps to support venues, with tough new planning rules, an innovative Culture at Risk Office to support those at risk of closure, and measures to ensure developers pay for soundproofing.
For example, just last month new planning rules were put into action for the first time ever to ensure the future of a West End nightclub that would have been lost.
In Elephant and Castle, developers have to cover the cost of soundproofing a venue as part of their work.
SCW: What is your biggest challenge?
AL: The biggest challenge we have is changing the conversation about London at night.
Too often there is a negativity towards the night – venues closing and worries about crime. But in fact, venue numbers have stabilised and fewer crimes are recorded at night than in the day.
The biggest challenge we have is changing the conversation about London at night.
There’s so much to enjoy about the night and we have to get that message across. I’m determined to work with councils, business and the police to make sure that our night-time economy works for everyone and ensure that every borough of London has a vision for delivering it.
SCW: What do you see as your biggest achievement since you started the role?
AL: I’m incredibly proud of the hard work I’ve done to support and protect venues across the capital. After a decade of steep decline, we’ve seen the number of grassroots music venues and LGBT+ venues in the city stabilise.
That’s a huge achievement in the face of so many pressures faced by these essential cultural spaces. In addition to supporting established venues, we’ve been helping new ones open.
Together with our Culture at Risk Office, we have supported 350 cultural spaces – including nearly 200 night-time spaces at risk of closure, and we have introduced London’s most pro-culture planning framework ever to help protect our venues.
I’m also very proud to work with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, delivering the Women’s Night Safety Charter to improve safety in our city at night.
In November, we published the most comprehensive research ever into the capital at night. In a first for a global city, we proved just how important the economy at night is to London, and how the capital’s nocturnal habits are changing. It was a game-changer, and clearly shows the importance of putting London’s life at night at the heart of all of the work we do.
SCW: What is the best part of the job?
AL: There’s no doubt that the best part of the job is meeting so many different people – Londoners, visitors and workers.
We are proud to be one of the most diverse cities in the world, with more than 300 languages spoken every day, and I take real pleasure in speaking to so many people about London at night.
Everyone has a different perspective on what they want from their city, and it’s great to hear them all and work with them to develop and deliver our plans.
SCW: What keeps you awake at night?
AL: As Night Czar, it is London’s 24-hour life that keeps me awake at night – and I’m not the only one!
Londoners go to bed later than anyone else in the UK.
Thanks to our research, we know that two-thirds of Londoners are regularly active at night – running errands and socialising. We know there are more restaurants, cafes, museums, shops, sports facilities and libraries at open at night.
We know that 1.6 million Londoners regularly work at night and that Londoners go to bed later than anyone else in the UK. We now know more than ever just how alive our city is at night
SCW: If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
AL: There is no better job in the world than to be Night Czar of the most diverse, dynamic and creative city on the planet!
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