London Appoints a Night Czar to Champion Live Music in the Old Smoke

Amy Lamé, Mayor of London's new Night Czar,
Victoria Jones/PA Wire URN:29087478

Amy Lamé, mayor of London's new Night Czar, photographed at the 100 Clubin London on Nov. 4, 2016.

Comedian, writer and broadcaster Amy Lamé has been appointed London's first ever Night Czar, tasked with protecting and promoting the capital city’s world famous -- and increasingly under threat -- cultural scene.

In the newly created role, Lamé will be required to champion London’s nightlife and work closely with the Night Time Commission -- an investigatory body -- local authorities and the police to help support and grow the city’s night time economy. She will also consult with businesses, night-time workers, residents and members of the public in monthly 'Night Surgeries' to represent the views and concerns of stake holders and interested parties.

The appointment of a Night Czar in the U.K.'s capital city follows the successful introduction of similar 'after-hours' mayor roles throughout Europe, with Paris, Amsterdam, the Dutch city of Groningen, Zurich in Switzerland and Toulouse and Nantes in France all employing night time ambassadors. The model is less commonly applied in the States, although San Francisco’s Entertainment Commission, led by executive director Jocelyn Kane, is charged with ensuring the health and vitality of indoor and outdoor entertainment venues in the city.

In London, Lamé’s appointment comes at a time when the city’s cultural and particularly its music scene finds itself under threat from a variety of factors, including rising rents and licensing restrictions. The result has been a severe decline in the number of small-capacity venues hosting gigs with London losing 35 percent of its grassroots music spaces since 2007, according to the Music Venue Trust. 

Numbered among the famous central London venues that have closed in that time is the Marquee, Astoria, 12 Bar Club and Madame Jojos, while The 100 Club, which played host to early gigs by The Rolling Stones and Sex Pistols and saw Paul McCartney play an intimate lunchtime gig in 2010, was only saved from extinction after signing a sponsorship deal with Converse in 2011. More recently, legendary dance club Fabric had its license revoked by Islington council following the drug-related deaths of two 18-year-olds earlier this summer. An appeal hearing to decide the fate of Fabric is scheduled for Nov. 28 at Highbury Magistrates Court.

Ahead of the court date, the nightclub has just released a 111-track compilation called #savefabric to iTunes, Bandcamp and other digital retailers via fabric Records/Houndstooth. The collection features contributions from Clams Casino, Howie B, Addison Groove, Lightwave and others from the "outer fringes of experimental explorations right through to music aimed squarely at the dancefloor," organizers said. 

In response to the city's dwindling live scene, the Music Venue Trust has launched a #FIGHTBACK campaign, which has received backing from Sir Paul McCartney, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan has vowed to legally establish the ‘Agent of Change’ principle, a regulation that puts the onus on property developers to mitigate against noise complaints from existing venues or businesses, in a bid to protect the city’s cultural heritage. In August, London’s Underground transport network began running through the night for the first time on selected lines, a measure that was hoped to spur a boost the city’s evening economy.

“For too long, the capital’s night-time industry has been under pressure -- music venues and nightclubs in particular are closing at an alarming rate,” said Lamé in a statement following her appointment as London’s inaugural night czar. “With the advent of the Night Tube, and the Mayor’s commitment to protect iconic venues across the city, I’m confident that I can inspire a positive change in the way people think about the night time economy,” she went on to say.

“The recent closure of the world-famous nightclub Fabric and the threats facing other venues across the capital show why Amy will be a much-needed ambassador for the city after dark,” commented Khan, calling Lamé “a fantastic hire who will give a big boost to our city’s flourishing nightlife.

Her appointment was also welcomed by Jo Dipple, CEO of umbrella organization UK Music, who called it “brilliant news for London’s music scene.”

According to a recent report by business organization London First, the night time economy contributes over £26 billion to the city’s annual GDP - a figure that is expected to rise to £28 billion by 2029.

Unsurprisingly, live music -- despite the pressures venue owners are under -- is at the heart of the night time economy, with 8.4 million attending music concerts, festivals and event in London last year, according to UK Music’s “Wish You Were Here Report 2016.”