‘New urbanism’ and the night-time economy…

Investment in a ‘night mayor’ or ‘night-time economy manager’ can have a qualitative impact on a city’s cultural and social well-being.

That’s according to a new study by Venezuela-born Andreina Seijas, an outspoken advocate of the night-time economy, and Mirik Milan Gelders, the former night mayor or ‘Nachtburgemeester’ of Amsterdam, who now advises on night-time policy.

The study, Governing the night-time city: The rise of night mayors as a new form of urban governance after dark, tracks the emergence (currently in 40 cities around the world) of the night mayor as an individual or individuals responsible for maintaining ‘nocturnal vibrancy, while mediating between those who wish to work, party or sleep’.

Seijas and Gelders surveyed 35 night mayors and night-time advocacy groups, and found that while the approach may differ from city to city, there is a growing consensus on the need for established nocturnal governance platforms.

The concept of the night mayor has its origins in the Netherlands in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s (or in many places the 2000s) that the concept took root in cities across the world.

As the authors state, in participating cities, discussion on the night time economy tends to start with the topic of ‘protection’ – the archetypal ‘bouncer at the nightclub door’ – and issues such as alcohol overconsumption or civil disobedience.

But by working beyond these, the focus can turn to more proactive dialogue about the purpose and benefits of a flourishing night-time economy, particularly when it comes to music venues.

‘By raising awareness of the need to protect night culture, night mayors are helping music and nightlife venues get recognised as relevant contributors to local tradition and identity,’ the authors explain, referencing a recent example from the German capital.

‘Amid increasing noise complaints in residential neighbourhoods, in 2017 the city of Berlin pledged one million euros to fund soundproofing strategies for nightlife and music venues in an effort to protect them from disappearing.’

According to the authors, night mayors are ‘an element of a ‘new urbanism’ approach’ by cities, encompassing factors such as cultural rejuvenation, the closure of music venues, and awareness around group-specific issues such as women’s safety.

Amsterdam’s culture has benefited from the presence of a ‘Nachtburgemeester’, or night mayor

As well as driving forth progressive regulations and updates to licensing legislation, half of the night mayors surveyed said that they believed their role contributes to a more ‘positive image’ of a city, as well as ‘changing the negative perception of the night’; not to mention ‘making the city more vibrant’ and ‘more competitive’.

In addition, 60% said that they see their role as important in creating a more ‘inclusive’ city, which is more ‘diverse’, ‘affordable’, and ‘open’ for residents and visitors alike.

Or, as Sacha Lord, Manchester’s night-time economy manager told 909originals last summer, “People who think ‘night time’ equals alcohol, drugs and problems are not really living in this decade. […] The night-time economy probably employs 10% of the whole workforce. In the UK, it’s the fifth biggest industry. It cannot be disregarded.

“There are always going to be a few people in suits pointing fingers, but the simple fact is that the night-time economy is employing thousands of people.

In Ireland, where advocacy group Give Us The Night appears to be making progress in terms of getting the night-time economy onto the legislative agenda, the report is particularly timely – particularly with a General Election looming.

The full report, Governing the night-time city: The rise of night mayors as a new form of urban governance after dark, can be found here.

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