London is arguably strongest in the fields of culture, heritage and entertainment – for example, tourist spending hit a record £11.9 billion in 2015. The much-anticipated opening of the night tube and the appointment of Amy Lamé as “Night Czar” spell the start of a drive to develop London’s night-time economy.
A report by London First calculated that it was worth as much as £26.3 billion annually and deserved to be taken more seriously. Research showing that half of London’s nightclubs shut in the last five years and 35% of its grassroots music venues closed in the period 2007-2015 has caused a stir.
Lamé has been consulting with venue owners, developers and local authorities, who feel broadly optimistic about the future.
“My ultimate vision for London as a truly 24-hour metropolis is a place where you can not only party or enjoy live music all night, but a city where you can visit a museum, go to the theatre or even get your hair and nails done at 2am!” she says.
You can dine day and night at restaurants like Duck & Waffle and Vingt-Quatre, check out midnight matinees at the Globe and screenings at the Prince Charles cinema, and even get your hair done at Neil Cornelius’s Bond Street hair salon.
Andrea Rasca, who runs artisan food market Mercato Metropolitano in a warehouse near Elephant and Castle, would operate 24 hours a day if he could. He compares night markets, several of which have recently appeared in inner London, to the 7-11 stores that were seen as “lighthouses” when they opened in Japanese cities after the war – “the more life, activity you have, the fewer criminals”.
He’s lived in Spain, Japan and the US but considers London, with its unique mix of people and possibilities for everyone, as his second home. With 28 carefully selected vendors of Italian, English and global food, cookery lessons, a gym, a cinema and a co-working space, Rasca’s market is “not a touristic place, it’s a place for community”. The Mayor of Southwark even paid a visit to try his hand at making pasta.
The major block to more late-night and 24- hour venues is that the licensing regime is the domain of local authorities and police borough commanders who are responsive to local residents, not businesses or cultural visionaries.
Following the closures of MODE and, temporarily, Fabric, Alan Miller, Chair of the Night Time Industries Association wants to see a stepped approach, as recommended by the Home Office, rather than venue closures whenever a disturbance happens outside them. He calls for 24-hour “destination hubs” for avid clubbers, as Amsterdam has outside the city centre, but also “a smart, joined-up urban-planning approach” across London, with amenities such as 24-hour gyms and crèches.
Last year, the closure of music spots plateaued. Husband-and-wife team Keiron Marshall and Hannah White show there is life in new London venues after they crowdfunded over £12,000 in six weeks to start the Sound Lounge in Mayor Khan’s backyard of Tooting.
They are also offering a bar, café, workshops and exhibitions – nonetheless, having previously run a space in Merton, they know how hard they will have to work to pay performers, business rates and their music licence.
London's night numbers
Estimated worth of London’s night-time economy
Friday 19 August 2016
The day the night tube started running on the Central and Victoria lines. It now also runs on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines
Number of jobs Transport for London estimates the night tube will generate
Estimated annual additional output generated by the night tube
Supported by London’s night-time economy