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Meeting People:
Amy Lamé, Night Czar

Meeting People

Knowing me, knowing you

Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us about your current role?

I have been Night Czar for London since the role was created in 2016. I’m responsible for helping London to thrive between 6pm and 6am as part of the Mayor’s work to build a safer and more prosperous London for everyone. This includes advising the Mayor, Deputy Mayors and Mayoral Advisors on all areas of policy and planning which impact on London at night.

A big part of this involves championing London’s diverse nightlife, supporting venues and standing up for the 1.3m Londoners who work evenings and nights. I work closely with partners across the capital to improve planning for night time and help deliver the Mayor’s commitment to putting women’s safety at the heart of night time organisations.

How did your career path lead you to politics?

I’ve worked at night my whole life, from working in the family plumbing business to running and hosting my own club night, Duckie, for 27 years. I played a key role in the campaign to save the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a much loved LGBTQ+ venue in south London. And my career as a radio broadcaster has helped me connect with people all over London, the UK and further afield.

I jumped at the opportunity when the role of Night Czar was advertised, knowing how useful my past experience would be in the role. And I’ve never looked back. It is the best job in the world!

The ups and downs

What has been the most impactful project you’ve worked on or the project you’re most proud of?

It has to be the Women’s Night Safety Charter. London is a safe city at night for women but unfortunately too many women feel unsafe when travelling, working or going out of an evening.

The Charter encourages councils, businesses, venues and other organisations to prioritise women’s safety after 6pm. Funding from the Mayor is providing support, training and resources to signatories to help them meet the seven pledges of the Charter.

We’ve had overwhelming support for the Charter so far with over 2,100 venues and organisations, including venues, operators, gyms, charities, local authorities and businesses across London, that want to ensure our city is the safest and most welcoming city in the world.

It’s also influencing other cities at home and abroad, with Cardiff, Bristol, Exeter, Manchester, Melbourne and Tallinn all following our lead by adopting the model – and we continue to call on more organisations, businesses and venues to join us.

What’s been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

The impact of the pandemic was incredibly challenging. The whole of London’s nightlife stood still as pubs, clubs and bars were the first to shut and the last to reopen. And now with the cost-of-living crisis, the industry is still facing challenging times.

I continue to work closely with businesses, venues, boroughs and Londoners to support them throughout these challenges and we continue to do all we can to help our incredible nightlife.

Through our Culture and Community Spaces at Risk Fund we’ve protected hundreds of venues from closure. A lot of this dedicated work is done behind the scenes, out of the limelight, but it includes providing support with working with local authorities or other partners, lobbying, dispute mediation and negotiation with landlords, support with navigating the planning system, and fundraising and campaign support.

Trend setter

What do you see as the current trends shaping the built environment for you locally?

The way we interact with spaces and places around the clock is really important. For too long, thinking about night time has come as an afterthought.

We’re working with local authorities across London to develop night time strategies that enable better planning for all aspects of life at night. We’ve seen Wandsworth and Camden publish their strategies, developed with support from City Hall. And the City of London is the only local authority with a dedicated lighting strategy that looks how lighting can improve mobility, vibrancy and safety in the Square Mile.

We want to work with all local authorities to improve people’s experiences at night and the built environment has a big role to play in this.

What are the biggest challenges you feel housing is facing?

I think the opportunity – rather than the challenge – is to create vibrant places where people want to live.

Sadiq has a fantastic track record of building homes, in particular affordable housing. Since 2016, more than 32,000 council homes have been started in London, with 23,000 directly funded by City Hall. This compares to just 3,520 council homes started in London in the entire decade before Sadiq become Mayor.

That’s why, as we boost housing supply across the city, we need to make sure that the people who live there have access to a range of activities on their doorstep that supports a vibrant and thriving community around the clock. It’s why our London Plan is the most pro-night time ever, encouraging boroughs to promote their local night time offer, improve access to the public realm at night and diversify their range of activities at night.

Crystal ball gazing

What are your predictions for the housing sector over the next decade?

We’re going to see London’s housing sector plan around the night far better than we have before.

For example, with 1.3m people working at night, we need to see housing that allows for good sleep during the day, as well as at night.

Our London Plan led the way with the introduction of the Agent of Change principle. It puts the onus on the developers to mitigate against noise in new buildings located close to existing venues. This enables residents and night time venues to exist side by side, with careful consideration and planning from both sides.

With new developments , we want to make sure they’re accessible and vibrant at night. That is why we’re working with all boroughs to create holistic night time strategies, enabling them to plan better for every aspect of life at night.

Cultural highlights

A personal project, goal, or endeavour you’re excited about and why.

It has to be my garden. We’re very lucky in London to have such amazing green spaces all around us. But this year my own personal project has been to get my own small terrace garden looking as good as our beautiful public parks. I live not far from Regents Park and am really jealous of their amazing Rose Garden!

I’m really enjoying it – it gives me the chance to reflect as well as concentrate on the task at hand – whether it’s planting, pruning, watering or just admiring the flowers. I’m in the office all day and out and about most week nights so only get time to tend to my plants at the weekend. It’s amazing how much a garden can grow and change in one week, particularly at this time of year!

Passing the baton

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to move into a role like yours?

The role of Night Czar is unique, and thankfully I’m part of an amazing network of night time advocates from all over the world. We share ideas and support each other.

If you have ideas on how the night time can be better, whether it’s improving women’s safety at night or fresh ideas about licensing, make sure your voice is heard and speak up! Local authorities and sector organisations are always willing to listen to ideas on how we can make our night time better and work for everyone. And our door at City Hall is always open.

We’re the Meeting Place of deep knowledge and creative thinking. And we want to hear from you.