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Amy Lamé responds to criticism of London Night Czar role, following restrictive new Hackney nightlife legislation
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The Night Czar has shared a statement with NME

London Night Czar Amy Lamé has shared a statement with NME, after restrictive new legislation on bars, clubs and other nightlife was imposed on the borough of Hackney.

The new policy will see any new bars, clubs and restaurants in the East London area subjected to an automatic 11PM curfew on weekdays, and a 12AM curfew on weekends, unless they can prove they are “responsible” and will not have a “negative impact on the area” if they stay open later than the curfew.

Hackney is home to a number of venues, bars and clubs which are essential to London’s nightlife and music scene, including Dalston Superstore, Birthdays, Oslo, Hackney Showroom, Moth Club, The Shacklewell Arms and Brilliant Corners.

NME’s rebuttal to this legislation, in which we questioned the role and responsibilities of the Night Czar, was picked up by the Mayor’s Office, who contacted NME requesting right of reply. NME sent a number of questions to Lamé, including the specifics of her role, how she sees the new legislation impacting Hackney’s renowned nightlife, and what justification there was for the 114% pay rise she benefitted from last year. Many of these questions were side-stepped, with Lamé opting to share a statement with NME, rather than answer the specific questions we asked.

Amy Lamé’s statement on the Night Czar role and the new Hackney nightlife legislation can be read in full below.

“I’m incredibly proud to be London’s first ever Night Czar. London is the largest city to adopt this role, taking our lead from cities like Berlin and Amsterdam. Many other cities have now also created the position, including New York, Paris and Manchester – all recognising the need to champion nightlife in our cities. I work with my global counterparts to share ideas and policies – and London benefits.

The capital’s night-time economy contributes £26.3bn to our city and supports one in eight jobs. Without a doubt, London has the most diverse nightlife anywhere in the world but, similar to other cities, it’s no secret that it has been under enormous pressure from rising rates, rents and development.

With my appointment, the Mayor showed that he’s willing to stand up for the capital’s life at night. Sadiq sought an ambassador for the city after dark- someone who has first-hand experience of working in London at night. He knew London needed a champion for our nightlife- someone to bring together industry and authorities to make sure our night-time economy continues to flourish. As Night Czar for all Londoners, that’s exactly what I’m doing. From my first day in the job I have brought people- often from strongly opposed views- around a table to fix the real problems London at night is facing.

Helping venues not just survive but thrive is an important part of my role. That’s why I work closely with the city’s first ever Culture at Risk Office, a dedicated resource set up by the Mayor to support cultural spaces and venues at risk of closure. In its first year it has supported more than 200 cultural spaces, including helping the Rio Cinema in Dalston to raise funds for a refurbishment; helping the Electric Ballroom in Camden increase its capacity; protecting Club 414 in Brixton from redevelopment; keeping the historic 100 Club on Oxford Street open; and supporting a landmark case to ensure the Joiners Arms, an LGBT+ venue in Hoxton, is replaced like-for-like in a new development.

London has a great musical heritage, but if we don’t support our grassroots venues and fail to protect facilities for emerging talent, then we’re putting the city’s position as the music capital of the world at risk. That’s why we are doing all we can to keep existing venues and encourage new ones to open. This includes creating the most pro-culture planning framework the capital has even seen, including introducing the Agent of Change principle to help protect venues from new developments. This means developers building new residential properties near grassroots music venues will be responsible for ensuring they are adequately soundproofed and designed to reduce sound from nearby music venues, instead of the crippling cost falling on the venues themselves. This has already been used to protect venues, including the George Tavern in Stepney Green. Central government has now followed our lead to introduce a version of the principle into national policy.

We also partnered with the Music Venue Trust to raise money for grassroots venues through the Mayor’s Sounds Like London programme, which featured more than 200 gigs across the capital in June. Another success was the Met scrapping Form 696, after I called for a review following concerns by the capital’s music industry that it unfairly targeted urban and grime acts.

Nearly two years into the job we’re really seeing the impact of this work. After a decade of decline, research shows that the number of grassroots music venues in London has remained stable for two years, which is really encouraging news. The number of LGBT+ venues has also remained stable with new venues opening including The Cock Tavern, Kennington and Circa The Club, Embankment.

I’ve also been working hard to ensure our nights out are safe, especially for women. The Women’s Night Safety Charter provides best practice guidance and a seven-point pledge to tackle harassment and ensure women feel safe at night whether they are working, studying, travelling or partying. The Charter has been adopted into London-wide policy, and signatories include over 25 venues, businesses, organisations and local authorities including Ministry of Sound, The 02, TfL, the Met Police, Live Nation UK, and Lambeth Council.

Because of the successes we’ve seen, I am optimistic about finding a way forward for Hackney’s night life.

Licensing policy is, by law, a matter for local authorities. Neither I nor the Mayor have the power to tell local authorities what to do or not to do on licensing issues. However, my role is to help get everyone to sit around the table, talking together, to represent the needs of the night-time economy in those conversations, and ultimately to find a solution that works for everyone. I’ve used this convening power on a number of different issues from Croydon to Waltham Forest, Newham to Kingston- and it really can work.

Shoreditch and Dalston’s night-time economy are the envy of the world. I know both Hackney Council and its businesses and residents want to protect its vibrancy, while making sure it works for those who live in the area.

I have been listening to and understand local people and businesses’ concerns about the new licensing policy. I share many of them.

That’s why I have asked Hackney for an urgent meeting to see if it is possible to work out a solution that protects the local community whilst making sure London doesn’t go backwards in its progress towards becoming a truly 24-hour city. I’m sure there is a positive way forward.

I’m proud to be a Londoner and be the Night Czar for the most vibrant and diverse city in the world. I will carry on working – both night and day – to make sure ours is a city that thrives at night for everyone.”

NME has requested further correspondence with Lamé.

24/07/2018 18:39:12
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