Three cheers for one of the most successful industries in the UK
Last year, Alan Miller, former owner of Brick Lane’s Vibe Bar, wrote this guest feature on his decision to close down one of the East End’s most beloved venues. Five months on, Alan has stepped in once again to write the below feature on the importance of the nighttime trade and the reasons behind launching the NTIA (Night Time Industries Association).
On this day of the UK General Election, where all of the main political Parties claim that business – particularly small businesses – are vital for our future, there is an enormous success story in our capital and across Britain that is leading the charge for economic vitality as well as cultural innovation. What is this great story? It is the dynamic and constantly evolving Night Time Industry.
Tourists know it of course – as these days many more young people are flying on Easyjet or coming on the Eurostar or from further afield, to dance at our world-class clubs such as XOYO, Fabric, Ministry of Sound and exciting events such as LWE and The Hydra. Indeed, while many still come to see Madame Tussauds and Buckingham Palace – many more are visiting our incredible array of bars, street food festivals, pop up events and music festivals. In fact, in Britain over 300 million people visit for a meal or night out annually which provides us with the 66 Billion Pound Sterling revenue generated.
As we ponder and reflect upon how much we like the way London has evolved in the past decade in a variety of ways, so much of it has been directly as a result of the innovation that is at the heart of our Night Time entrepreneurs. Urban planners often like to quote Jane Jacobs, who wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities and also talked about “social capital” and how certain activity would light up areas and be more encouraging for growth. Our enormously popular bars in so many boroughs have continued to push the boundaries of design and creativity. From cocktails on rooftops in Peckham and Hornsey, to craft beers in Hackney and terrific food in even the smallest of premises, London is thoroughly transformed by the immensely impressive fare that is on offer. More than that though, these premises brighten up the area, create jobs, pay business rates and have an enormous “multiplier” effect for the regeneration and reinvestment of areas. In fact, the Night Time Industries account for 8% of British employment – with a huge proportion of those employed being young people, who are disproportionately unemployed.
We often like to pride ourselves in London and beyond about our popular musical talents and contribution to the world, from The Beatles onwards. Imagine the landscape for a moment if we wanted to continue to forge such talent, with the most recent incarnations such as Clean Bandit, Ed Sheeran, Jessie Jay and Adele without nightclubs and the night time industry. Recently I was in a coffee shop in Nashville, happily listening to Idris Elba’s Mi Mandela CD being played in the southern city that is a musical mecca. From The Brits, to MOBO’s but also from London Fashion Week to Frieze Art Fair and The London Film Festival – so much of our cultural value is enjoyed, celebrated and tied up with our night time industry protagonists.
In fact, while Ed Milliband says Labour is the “party of small business and enterprise” and David Cameron champions his “Creating More Jobs” and Nick Clegg was enthused with “Small Business Saturday” – nobody has come out in solid statements of support for one of Britain’s most important, innovative and dynamic sectors. Worse than that though – as these entrepreneurs are robust and happy to demonstrate their professionalism and profitability day in and out with a hugely adoring public – is the notion that somehow the Night Time Industries should be seen as connected to some tiny fringe of bad behaviour.
As we all know, the absolute majority of Londoners and British citizens go out weekly and enjoy the culturally rich offerings that continue to be experimented with and provided for us by those that have the courage to put their energies and investments and selves on the line daily to bring us something exciting and new. Take the street food phenomenon for instance. Intimately linked in so many ways to the night time industry – from music that is played to the later licenses requested and the “festival” ambience and how much London loves experiences such as Street Feast, Kerb, Munch, Hawker House and the expanding stalls and trucks across our cities.
Yet sadly, despite all this good news, we have seen an attitude that aims to curtail and cut back and limit this enormous cultural contribution to UK Plc. Where we have seen some of the biggest successes in regeneration and popularity, in areas such as Shoreditch, Hackney, Camden and Vauxhall – which has also led to other industries such the highly prized tech companies arriving following the transformation by bars and clubs – have their venues come under enormous pressured from police and local authorities who have begun to tag bars and clubs directly with “Anti Social Behaviour” and crime. That is worrying, especially as violent crime thankfully has decreased in Britain, as cutting back license hours, preventing new premises from opening and imposing such heavy restrictions and security costs on an industry will only detrimentally impact all of society’s best wins. Further, do Londoners and our visitors really deserve to be subject to breathalysers, sniffer dogs and various other suggested policies simply for wishing to dance beyond 11pm?
It is with this in mind that we formed The Night Time Industries Association. With a board that has some of the leading owners and operators in the UK and advisors including renowned concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith, The NTIA will be aiming to bring to government and the Mayor’s Office the essential contribution to our cities of the night time industries.
To have a truly international city that competes appropriately on the world stage, many have seen that London needs to be a fully active 24-hour city – with transport and indeed all types of services. Our night time entrepreneurs provide our cities with the professionalism and curatorial delights of international artists, inspiring entertainment and excellent food as well as being a cauldron for the next cultural phenomenon. In fashion as in advertising and art, all are influenced – and then influence back – our nightclubs and bars. So, perhaps a good question to pose to each of the main candidates and indeed those standing for local election is – do you support one of Britain’s most important sectors and will you encourage it to continue to flourish – or flounder?
Alan D Miller is Chairman of The NTIA, find him on Twitter: @alanvibe
For more info on The NTIA see www.ntia.co.uk