It's no secret that Britain's night time economy has taken somewhat of a beating in recent years. Iconic and much-loved venues from across the country have suffered closures due to a wide range of issues - financing, redevelopment, noise complaints and even drugs. Fortunately, there is an organisation that's out to fight the good fight and restore the balance - The Night Time Industries Association. Boxpark is an official member of the NTIA and has helped campaign to save Britain's night life. We caught up with founder, Alan Miller, to find out more...
Tell us who you are and what you do?
I'm Alan Miller and, after running events around the world since 1988, I helped to create the NTIA. For 20 years, I was a co-founder of The Old Truman Brewery's 11 acre site in Brick Lane, helping regenerate a large 22 building site using the Vibe Bar and events, as well as people from the night time industries and surrounding ecosystem that we located to the site, to create a destination cultural business hub and transform a part of London that was very underutilized.
As a founder of The NTIA, I brought together the key leaders and other founders who enabled it to move forward together. I spend my time engaged in lobbying and campaigning to ensure that the benefits of nightlife to the UK economy culture and way of life are recognised, by bringing together stakeholders from the council, police, transport, housing and property for a productive collaboration to ensure we can all work together to curate the kind of cities we want in the future.
We spent the first year aiming to re-calibrate the narrative : one from where “night time = anti social behaviour and crime” to “night time = employment, regeneration, destination retail; fresh young blood for properties and taxes for councils. To help people understand that it is on the dance floor that the next cultural phenomena is hatched. From Adele and Tinie Tempah to Wiley and Skepta. From The Beatles to London Fashion Week, advertising, retail and design -it cannot be achieved without the fruits of labour, musically and culturally, of the 5th biggest industry in Britain.
We run campaigns, work with partners and lobbied successfully for a Night Czar in London. We were very involved in setting up the Mayor’s Night Time Commission. We work in partnership with other groups and lobbyists but we also protect and defend members such as Fabric and others from across the country.
I split my time between developing strategy, working with our partners, speaking publicly and writing and co-ordinating with our team to grow the organisation and the influence we have, to ensure our concerns and issues are at the table with decision makers to push for a positive environment for us all.
NTIA is made up of representatives and creatives from across the world of nightlife; from club owners, festival organisers and even restaurant managers. What do all these people bring to the table when it comes to saving Britain after dark?
Yes indeed, we have key players from across Britain including Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol, Brighton and, of course, London. This helps to ensure that we have a combined strong voice with all our interests reflected. Also, having such professional and well known protagonists, councillors and MP's, as well as the police and others, recognise that it is a robust and strong organisation, with members that bring considerable value to the areas that they are in.
The Street Food phenomenon is an important case in point; livening up the area, lighting up the streets, making them more attractive and safer destinations to be in. As well as helping them become famous globally, as well as providing much needed jobs and revenues to surrounding areas.
Collectively, we have demonstrated that we have a strong voice of diligent professionals who want what is best for our cities and our future, and not to be punished for issues that are unfair and do not occur in other sectors; like when a bank is robbed or there are deaths on motorways, drugs at airports and prisons etc, but to work together fairly in addition to the general pressures on venues.
Where do you think the responsibility lies when it comes to maintaining and protecting Britain's night time industry?
All of us.
We take that responsibility especially seriously. We have lobbied hard for the creation of roles with all leaders, decision makers and even the public, to understand the benefits and the value of nightlife. That is why we ask everyone to be engaged and sign our petition at www.savenightlife.com It gives you the opportunity to have your voices heard by your local MP and councillors and really make a difference.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement so far?
Fabric - the campaign ran nationally and internationally to ensure it was seen by all and that people recognised just how much influence they could have. I'm also proud of the work we've done in creating The Night Time Commission in London and the Night Czar role.
We have had several other really important wins, like working with the Bussey Building, in Peckham, and developers in Southwark to find solutions to the problems of location. We helped Rah Rah Room face up unfair treatment and worked in Liverpool with 24 Kitchen Street and behind scenes to push for a masterplan that protects nightlife. We also pushed hard for a Night Czar and Commission in Mayoral Elections and beyond in Manchester.
Our campaign, #WeLoveHackney was also a huge milestone and proved we could pose a challenge and solutions to issues surrounding the nightlife crisis.
Our most recent achievement was the memorial to those impacted by Manchester terror attack. We were all involved with Parklife Festival with Andy Burnham, The Mayor of Manchester, and the first responders; it was a very special moment for us all.
You've worked tirelessly to ensure that statistic are reported fairly and are not blown out of proportion, when it comes to things like drug use and 'anti social behaviour'. Have you seen much of a change in attitudes in recent years?
It has definitely impacted in some areas. For instance, the police now recognise that “stats based policing” has many problems and that using mobile phone losses as crime statistics is flawed.
However, we have seen with the recent election that police cuts have been deep and severe; so working to ensure a common understanding and fair treatment, as well as pushing to ensure personal responsibility, under English law, is used, rather than holding venues responsible is still very crucial. We have some distance to go.
London has lost many iconic venues over the past few years. What do you hope for the future of the capital's nightlife?
It all depends on what we do. We have now got the issue firmly on the agenda and it is so encouraging to hear so many different voices looking at working together to find solutions. The narrative is now much more for us about how to amplify and enhance the wonderful attributes that make London so special, as well as our other cities.
We need more 24 hour destination hubs - like in Amsterdam - and are in discussions about creating hubs in different parts of london where venues can also own spaces at low cost, then not be pushed out when they create the success. Then young people can move into the flats there, the councils make money and everyone is happy.
We absolutely need greater flexibility on closing times and to treat venues as victims of crime, not the creators of them. We need to hold people accountable for the (increasingly small amounts ) of criminal activity that affects venues.
There needs to be drug testing and we need to recognise the ubiquity of drug use and how the BMJ has argued for an end to 'The War on Drugs'.
We also need to make sure that we have a positive, bold, upbeat and confident approach to a 24 hour city that improves tourism, employment, culture and our way of life. We have some projects planned with The Mayors Office and others that we will continue to push across all of these areas.
Boxpark is a member of the NTIA and supported the huge #SAVETHENIGHTLIFE campaign. Can you you tell us a little bit more about it and how people can get involved?
This is the MOST CRUCIAL thing - Boxpark has been a great supporter of the campaign but We really need the PUBLIC to get involved!! It was demonstrated with Fabric and in many other instances like #WeLoveHackney, that the voices of those who go out and love a vibrant nightlife are absolutely crucial to influencing key decision makers. Councillors often only have a few hundred votes and when thousands start emailing them it makes an enormous difference; they also realise that these voices can vote too!