How night mayors are boosting economies

1st June 2016

By Andrew StevensSenior Research Fellow, UCL City Leadership Initiative

The positive benefit of night time economies to city competitiveness was the subject of two recent global events which aimed to promote understanding around how cities and their entertainment industries can better collaborate.

The third edition of the Music Cities Convention, held on 18 May in Brighton, UK, had a vibe similar to what you would expect of Austin, Texas’ better known South by Southwest festival. And while the event brought together players from the entertainment industry, governance was as much to the fore as guitars.

As well as advisers and members of city governments in Berlin and Reykjavik (represented by its Deputy Mayor, Bjorn Blondal), the event featured keynotes by Amsterdam’s self-styled ‘rebel in a suit’ Mirik Milan, the city’s night mayor, and San Francisco’s Jocelyn Kane, who heads up the city’s ‘Entertainment Commission’.

In Europe and elsewhere, the office of these night time champions varies in its appointment and structure but the role is largely the same, to convene and better coordinate their city’s nightlife.

The idea has caught on. Just weeks into his mayoralty, London’s Sadiq Khan has promised to introduce a Dutch-style ‘night czar’ in City Hall (as per his manifesto) to champion the capital’s night time economy and bring together its numerous actors, from music venues to the police, transport and borough planning authorities.

This is all the more important as London prepares to introduce 24-hour running of its underground system, the ‘night tube’, from this summer.

Berlin’s Club Commission has even spun out its own knowledge transfer consultancy to generate income for its role in liaising on behalf of the city government with the local entertainment industry in order to strengthen and secure its night time economic offer for tourism and talent attraction alike. The German capital was one of the prime movers at April’s inaugural Night Mayor Summit held in Amsterdam (alongside the EU Capital Mayors’ Meeting) by Milan himself.

As well as established Dutch municipality night mayors and representatives of other European cities hoping to introduce the model, there were activists and night time champions from as far as Tokyo and Sydney.

Taking time out from the ‘day mayor’ gathering nearby, Eberhard van der Laan, Mayor of Amsterdam, was on hand to talk up the benefit of having a civic champion of and from the city’s night time economy. “The night mayor is not a gimmick, he is a partner,” he told delegates.

The mayor sensed that his city is ready to lead on the global promotion of such an office in order to better harness the dynamism that night time entertainment brings to all cities, rather than just being perceived as a public safety issue. “In Amsterdam, it works. The night mayor would be a useful office for every city.”


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