Bristol Council seeks new Night-Time Economy Champion to help struggling venues

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By Lucas Arthur, Music Editor

Bristol City Council is seeking ‘a new Night Time Economy champion’ – a part time advisor who will spearhead efforts to maintain the city’s night time economy.

It's the latest move taken by the council’s Bristol @ Night panel, an initiative set up to aid a vital local sector, long ravaged by lockdown restrictions. Bristol’s night-time economy directly or indirectly supports the employment of around 91,600 people, representing some 34% of the city’s total jobs.

The Bristol @ Night panel was established in February of 2019, with the intention of supporting and representing the city’s night time culture within the melee of urban planning and legislation. Its board members liaise with everyone involved in night-time commerce, from ‘emergency services and transport colleagues’ to developers and venue owners, to ‘ensure that Bristol is a safe and inclusive place to be at all hours of the day or night.’ Since pandemic restrictions jeopardised the livelihoods of almost all of those within the sector, pressure has been mounting on the panel to provide assurances.

The new ‘Night Time Economy Advisor’ will answer directly to the city’s mayor, Martin Rees, and chair the Bristol @ Night panel, working 2.5 days a week on a pro rata salary. Their primary role will be to help stakeholders from across the city to ‘recover from the challenges associated with Covid-19 and support them to re-open safely.’ In addition, they’ll be tasked with formulating ‘a longer view of how Bristol’s night time economy can support the economic, cultural and social success of our city.’

Marti Burgess, current chair of the panel and co-owner of Lakota, spoke to Bristol 24/7: ‘This person will commission and oversee appropriate research to ensure that the city’s strategy for the recovery of the night-time economy is achievable, inclusive and balanced. We want the night time economy to grow and diversify, as well as be resilient and sustainable in face of the many challenges that face it.’

The new role was met with mixed reactions from others on the panel. Speaking to Annie McGann, panel member and founder of SaveBristolNightlife, she expressed concerns over the workload attributed to the position. ‘I’m looking forward to the new dynamic, but it’s not a part time job. It’s a job for three people!’

While several news outlets described the new role as a ‘Night Czar’, Annie queried the use of the term. It's derived from the official title of Amy Lamé, chair of London’s Night-time Borough Champions Network, whose achievements since 2016 have been a prime example of a successful interface between government and night time recreation. Her role, versus Bristol’s Night Time Economy Advisor, differ vastly in scope and authority. ‘I don’t think they should be used interchangeably’, said Annie: ‘it stops the message from getting across.’

In addition, she stressed the peril that many venue owners currently find themselves in, following months of closure and menial compensation. ‘People aren’t just losing their buildings and livelihoods; they’re losing the will. It’s more than just a job – to work in nightlife, you have to love it.’

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The announcement comes days after the end of National Independent Venue Week, marked by over 110 venues hosting performances, interviews and discussions with a broad spread of artists, from Arlo Parks to Primal Scream. In Bristol, the occasion was met with a new music video from IDLES, shot at venues including The Louisiana, Exchange, The Mother's Ruin, The Old Duke and Trinity Centre.

Besides the economic imperatives, the smaller venues which make up a vast proportion of the nightlife sector are an essential cultural investment: ‘Independent venues are the fertile soil in which the future of the performing arts will grow’, said IDLES guitarist Mark Bowen. ‘They are where your future favourite band will play, where the best song ever written will be tested out: where the new talent can bud and flourish.’

Featured: Lucas Arthur


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