The Night Time Industries Association was set up 17 months ago to represent bars, nightclubs, festivals, pop -up venues, street food and the whole “eco-system’ of nightlife in Britain”. Writing an open letter, the organisation’s chairman Alan D Miller argues some of the country’s most important cultural assets are being suffocated by rates, red tape and more.
British nightlife has been championing the next generation of talent since the start of popular music in the post war period. While it may be banal in the extreme to reference the globally renowned local venues such as Liverpool’s Cavern Club it should be noted that the history of music and fashion in Britain is inseparable from our nightlife and local bars and clubs.
Whether it was Chrissie Hynde who while performing at The Hare and Hounds Pub in Birmingham met that not-so-well known band at the time that was supporting – UB40 or indeed Manchester’s now deceased Boardwalk club, where Oasis, The Stone Roses and many others performed, stands in memory alongside The Hacienda for the contribution it made. From Mods to New Romantics, Northern Soul to UK Grime, the sounds that shape our daily landscape and lives and the clothes and trends that are inspired and imagined on and around the dance floors have come to be an enormous part of British culture. This is who we are.
It is therefore a travesty, as well as a tragedy, that in the last few years we have seen some of our most loved and incredibly valuable cultural assets disappear. From Glasgow’s beacon of inspiration The Arches, to London’s Astoria it is important to understand the extent of the impact on us all. Aside from the £66bn annual revenue generated in the night time economy and almost 8 per-cent of UK employment, nightlife is where the next generation of artists are inspired and hatching the next cultural phenomenon.
What has been particularly problematic has been some of the attitudes more recently of local authorities towards nightlife. Rather than seeing the enormous benefits, of employment, business rates, paying taxes – as well as acting as a vital brand attraction for cities in terms of tourism and hospitality – some local councilors and police get trapped in terms that are overly negative, talking often only about nuisance, “Anti Social Behaviour” or crime. This is especially weird considering serious crime has drastically reduced, A & E levels have been stable and young people are drinking less than ever before. In so many ways, there should be more of a celebration of how successful this British industry is.
That is why we have launched #NightlifeMatters a national campaign to allow people across the UK to have their say about what matters to them. Each week millions of people go out, listen to new or established music, meet new friends, fall in love and have a richer life because of it. The campaign enables music lovers to send a message to their local councilor about why nightlife matters and should be protected, not punished. You can also go to one of the top British clubs over the next couple of months that are hosting the campaign, for more see www.nightlifematters.com
Last week I was in New York City and while in The Meatpacking area I marveled at how far it has come while admiring new Whitney Museum there amidst hotels, restaurants and retail galore – remembering thought that it was the particular success the nightclub Lotus that popularized the area and brought so many new people to it that forged the way for the rest. We cannot imagine Ian Schraeger and his hotels without Studio 54 and across Britain our cities have been transformed and improved by clubs and bars who put in all the hard work up front and then are often punished when things are successful, quite wrongly.
The little bars and clubs are where the first live gigs happen for new bands and artists. This is where they start and then may go on to become the next Kaiser Chiefs, Snow Patrol or The Who – and where DJs with a small following launch to become the next Calvin Harris playing Coachella with Rhianna or indeed how we get the next Emily Sande, Tinie Tempah, Ed Sheeran, Jessie J or Adele who are are (quite rightly) applauded by our national politicians and local leaders as examples of our British creativity – but if we don’t have the incubators, the platforms, the ecosystem of the clubs and bars – then we won’t have our next generations coming through.
We need to have as many people in Britain having their voices heard and supporting our campaign. When the devastation of the outrage in Paris occurred last November, the world quite rightly declared that going out, dancing, drinking, eating, meeting new friends and socializing is something to be celebrated and supported. We agree. It is in that spirit that we invite people to protect, support and celebrate British nightlife. Please do
Alan D Miller @alanvibe
For more head to Ntia.co.uk.