London is struggling—but these three cities are truly vibrant 24/7by / September 21, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Amsterdam: The original 24-hour city
Amsterdam is widely seen as having elected the first ever formal “night mayor” when it appointed former club promoter Mirik Milan to the post in 2012, although the idea was first mooted as far back as 2002. Along with the late Amsterdam “day” mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, Milan managed to turn the capital’s popular nightlife scene from a source of nuisance, complaints and growing violence into a point of pride for the Dutch.
On top of finding ways to de-escalate hotspots such as Rembrandt Square, they also issued 24-hour licences to clubs outside the centre. This not only drew people away from areas already suffering from over-tourism, it also naturally staggered when partygoers left venues, reducing noise and other related problems.
Amsterdam now has around a dozen 24-hour clubs that attract world-class acts and regularly sell out, particularly during the yearly Amsterdam Dance Event, which includes a five- day festival and a major electronic music business conference.
The first-ever Night Mayor Summit in 2016 showed how global the concept now is, with similar posts being created in major cities around the world. But Amsterdam isn’t resting on its laurels: culture vulture Shamiro van der Geld took over earlier this year and wants to make the city’s nightlife more diverse and inclusive.
Paris: The diverse city
“La vie nocturne” divides and riles Paris’s residents and entrepreneurs. In 2014 city hall created a Conseil de la Nuit that brings together resident associations with
business figures in an attempt to get the right balance between “tranquillité publique” and the city’s after hours economy. Led by Frédéric Hocquard, a deputy mayor, its aim is to create a “dynamic, benevolent and respectful” nightlife.
There has been a push to diversify Paris’s nighttime offering and divert residents away from just revelling: Parisians can swim in the public art deco Piscine Pontoise until midnight (under multi-coloured neon lights) and spend summer evenings in one of 16 city parks, which are now open 24 hours. City hall even sponsors a group called “Pierrots of the Night,” whose goal is to preserve the vitality of the Parisian “vie nocturne” by performing street art interventions and carrying out mediation and counselling to prevent noise nuisance.
The city is actively trying to find spaces for Parisians to dance, drink and make merry until the early hours. Several government-owned SNCF sites have been converted into temporary spaces for art, dance, culture and evening frolics. Meanwhile, an official campaign “La nuit est à tous” (the night is for all) encourages neighbourly behaviour while advertising hefty fines for street harassment, public displays of intoxication and those caught throwing rubbish.
Berlin: The seedy city
Berlin has been famous for its nightlife since the 1920s, but its image as a destination for international clubgoers was cemented in the post-communist chaos of the 1990s. The newly-reunited city’s low rents and struggling economy made it a breeding ground for seedy nightclubs, techno parties in abandoned buildings and pop-up bars in empty lots. One former mayor even defended persistently high unemployment and low wages by calling the German capital “poor but sexy.”
Over the last decade, however, the city has struggled to balance techno beats with economic growth and changing demographics. The club kids who colonised the city in the 1990s began raising kids of their own, and were suddenly less tolerant of the hundreds of noisy nightclubs in their midst.
As noise complaints forced venues to shut down, local papers began to talk of “Clubsterbe”—“club extinction.” The city government appointed a “music representative” to give an official voice to the city’s clubs and offered music venues tax breaks and subsidies to pay for soundproofing and extra staff to control late- night crowds.
But a new threat may prove more difficult to solve. Berlin is now a destination for tech start-ups—partly, of course, thanks to its reputation for nightlife—and rents across the city have risen sharply. Industrial wrecks that were a refuge for ravers are becoming co-working spaces and open-plan offices.