Night Czar is a hell of a title, isn’t it? Utter Amy Lamé’s job role at anyone unfamiliar with London’s nightlife, and they’d likely assume she’s some sort of comic book anti-hero, using impressive superpowers to save the city. In reality, though, the capital’s Night Czar seems to wield no power whatsoever – and the city’s still at peril.
Yesterday, it was revealed that Hackney Council had unanimously passed new legislation which will force any new venues in the area to close at 11PM on weekdays and midnight on weekends, unless they can prove they deserve otherwise and aren’t posing a threat to the local area. We shouldn’t need to tell you what a dick move this is, but we will anyway – this is a fucking dick move. Nightlife has been an essential part of The Borough of Hackney’s redevelopment, the explosion of clubs and venues like Dalston Superstore, Birthdays, Oslo, Hackney Showroom, Moth Club, The Shacklewell Arms and Brilliant Corners making the area one of London’s most vibrant and creative. And now – because said clubs attracted a bunch of coked up city boys to the area, who subsequently complained about those very same clubs being open when, actually, they fancied a quiet night in with Bake Off and some disappointing, missionary sex with their latest Tinder match – that nightlife is being strangled.
“Hackney Council has passed new legislation which will force any new venues in the area to close at 11PM on weekdays and midnight on weekends.
We shouldn’t need to tell you what a dick move this is, but we will anyway – this is a fucking dick move.”
Most irritatingly, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Amy Lamé was given that powerful-sounding Night Czar role way back in November 2016, with the promise that she’d halt the flow of club closures that was plaguing London. It was a move that was heralded by almost everyone, us included – Lamé had the chutzpah and the past experience that looked set to finally stem the tides of cultural collapse in the city. “The closure – and threat of closure – to so many clubs, pubs and music venues must stop if London is to retain its reputation for world-class nightlife. I can’t wait to get started championing the capital as a 24-hour city for ALL Londoners!” she enthusiastically announced after being given the role. In a subsequent interview with The Fader, she revealed that “what I’m trying to do in my role as Night Czar is change the conversation. For so long people thought, ‘It’s the council versus the venues’, or, ‘It’s police versus revellers’. When actually what I’m trying to do is knock down those very stoic positions that have been in place for so long.”
Well, great fucking job you’ve done there, Amy. That very same council that is supposedly not targeting the venues has gone and imposed heavily restrictive licensing laws on… that’s right, venues! Imposing automatic curfews is a sure-fire way to rip the heart out of Hackney. And don’t think the existing venues are safe, either – I’d bet my pingers on the fact that, once those existing venues’ licenses run out, they’ll be subjected to the same stringency.
It’s not as if London has been safe in the time between – in the months since Amy Lamé took up the mantle of Night Czar, promising to wield her hypothetical sword and shield in defence of the city’s cultural hotspots, we’ve lost South London’s The Montague Arms – an early stomping ground for everyone from local heroes like King Krule, to Anna Calvi, Gang Of Four and… well, Mr. Blobby (no, really). What’s more, it acted as the locale for an iconic-if-we-do-say-so-ourselves NME roundtable with Mark E Smith, Nick Cave, and Shane MacGowan. The place hummed with musical history. And now it’s a fucking cocktail bar. Up the road in Elephant & Castle, local theatre The Coronet was shut for good in January of this yer – a venue that’s played host to Oasis, Blur, Justin Timberlake, Primal Scream, The Libertines, LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, Kelis, Alicia Keys, Caribou, Tame Impala, Placebo… we could go on. The Forge – a left-of-centre Camden bar with a stage which nevertheless hosted future household names like Julien Baker, bit the bullet last spring. And as for the shitshow that has been the logistics of London festivals this summer… well, we’re still in the queue for tap water at Citadel, five days on. We’re so thirsty, Amy. Help us.
Shoutout to our Government for trying to make us the worlds first truly 12 hour city with a 24 hour tube line.
— Midland (@midlandsound) July 19, 2018
In fact, it seems the only thing that Amy Lamé has been instrumental in bringing to London is the Night Tube. Which, as DJ, producer and label owner Midland pointed out, is a bit fucking pointless if there are no late-night clubs to go to, isn’t it?
Remarkably, Lamé even took an over 100% payrise at the end of last year, taking her pay from £35,000 to £75,000 a year, and moving from a two-and-a-half day a week employee to a full-timer. Quite what justification there is for that, we’re not entirely sure.
Around the time of the immediate ruling, Lamé herself cast out a tone-deaf, fingers-in-ears response, attempting to absolve herself of any responsibility for what she clearly knew full-well would be a disastrous decision. “Local authorities are responsible for licensing decisions, not the @mayoroflondon or the @nightczar. If you would like more information, here is a link to the Licensing Act 2003,” she tweeted, with all the tact and arrogance of a snotty child backed into a corner. After an obviously, well-deserved backlash, she followed it up with an assurance that she would be seeking an “urgent meeting” with Hackney’s mayor to check that this wouldn’t, y’know, fuck everything up. Sounds like something she should probably have done months ago, really, rather than after the legislation has actually already been passed. Much like Amy’s every move since taking her precious mantle, it’s far too little, far too late. It’s time she was held to account.
If someone whose literal job it is to protect and nurture London’s nightlife isn’t up to the task, is there any hope at all?
On any given night, Hackney’s likely to be playing host to scrappy indie hopefuls in the kitch Moth Club, left-field electronic wunderkinds in Showrooms, young pop prodigies at Oslo, riotous grime shows at Birthdays, flashy drag performances at Superstore, post-punk brilliance at The Shacklewell Arms and… well, probably a secret Four Tet set at Brilliant Corners. It’s an area like no other – one that feels fit-to-burst with incredible creative talent; one that gestates the future generations of every creative field. If that’s bled out of London, the whole country will feel the hit.