Cities After Dark
Last week I looked at the most recent Global Liveability Index for 2018 published by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Vienna topped the leading 10 cities, followed by Melbourne, and there were two other Australian cities featured in the top-ten, Sydney (5th) and Adelaide (10th).
The key factors used by the EIU to rank the cities were: Stability, Healthcare, Education and Infrastructure and Culture & Environment, the last criteria is a topic I’m taking a closer look at this week.
As more people move to cities, which is a massive reality and as population density increases, culture and environment and in particular culture, is an area that increasingly captures ever more community attention and government planning and regulation.
We all appreciate that anyone living in cities will want and expect access to quality services and infrastructure, that’s a given. However, people also want and need easy access to culture, they are living in cities that are supposed to be interesting places with culture, the arts and entertainment.
After all that’s a key attraction of city living and without a dynamic cultural environment, we could say ‘why bother’!
People’s lifestyles do not stop at the end of the working day, and culture and what happens after dark is important. It plays a big part in what makes a city interesting for both residents and visitors, it creates diversity and helps build economic stability.
In the EIU rankings Vancouver was the only city to score 100/100 while, the other cities, including Melbourne and Sydney scored less.
With their bigger and more densely packed populations and with many residents in cities living in high-rise, including super high-rise apartments, a dynamic and well-functioning 24/7 cultural city is an idea being sought from London to Sydney.
However, there are a wide range of interests involved and sometimes they come into conflict. Venues need to be profitable, artists need employment, public safety has to be guaranteed, harmful drinking needs to be stamped out and licensing laws modernised. While, essential services like transport and even basics like public toilets need to be operational, and that’s just a start.
What are Cities Doing?
Both London and Sydney are acutely aware of their reputations as 24-hour-cities, and perhaps in both, how over recent years that reputation has been in decline.
It’s a change that has happened as both cities have seen their populations increase and as visitor numbers have, even if on slightly varied scales, soared.
Last year London’s mayor announced plans to create a life at night that works for everyone, London as a 24-hour city with later opening hours for museums and theatres, with supermarkets open late, with around the clock transport options including Tube lines open overnight and at weekends. There was also the promise to protect music venues, pubs and clubs.
In Sydney, the City of Sydney has formed a new Nightlife and Creative Sector Advisory Panel. The city invited experienced experts from across Sydney’s nightlife and creative industries to join. The aim is to give vital insights into what businesses, artists and musicians really need for Sydney’s culture and night to flourish, and that would, according to Council include a reduced level of regulation.
For both London and Sydney, the real test will be accessibility, inclusion and diversity so that solutions do not only favour wealthy residents or well-heeled visitors.
What about a Night Mayor?
However, a number of other cities are also looking at these very same issues. Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin have demonstrated a number of interesting policies and innovations.
Amsterdam is credited with having elected the first ever ‘night mayor’ in 2012, although the idea was first suggested in 2002. The idea has been a success and other cities around the globe have followed.
The first night mayor de-escalated some overly popular nightspots with 24-hour licences outside the city centre which helped to reduce noise and other problems. Now the most recently elected night mayor wants to make the city’s nightlife more diverse and inclusive. (Sounds familiar).
Well ahead of Sydney and London, Paris established in 2014 a residents and business group to create a ‘dynamic, benevolent and respectful’ nightlife.
Diversity was key with different venues open late including 24-hour access to city parks and even late-night swimming pools under lights. The vitality of Paris’s night life also now includes performing street art, meditation and counselling to reduce noise.
In Paris, there’s also an official campaign ‘La nuit est a tous’ (The night is for all) which encourages neighbourly behaviour backed by hefty fines for public intoxication or throwing rubbish.
In Berlin, a city famous for its nightlife since the 1920's, there are new issues being faced, many of which are driven by changing demographics and economic pressures.
The city has a great reputation for clubs and techno-music, but with concerns over noise and venue behaviour, moved to appointed a ‘music representative’ to help manage and improve venues.
The generation of ‘club kids’ from the 1990's now living in the city with young families had become less tolerant of Berlin’s many nightclubs.
Now a new problem is emerging and Berlin’s club reputation, so popular with many people attracted to work with the city’s tech start-ups, is suffering. Space that the clubs and venues once occupied is being absorbed into co-working offices replacing the entertainment scenes.
Cities are very dynamic structures, that’s why they appeal as places to live in and how they function also needs to include culture and nightlife. Planning for these ‘after-dark’ areas is as complex as planning transport networks and so, the evolution continues.
The question; how will we continue to make cities an attractive place with dynamic and inclusive lifestyles that function for all day and night 24/7?
Here at least is one respected view:
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” Jane Jacobs, (author) The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
So far, the few cities we have looked at here have taken that idea on board with business, entertainment and community advisory and management groups and ‘night mayors’.
Let’s hope they can all help keep our cities vibrant, distinctive, inclusive and safe places to enjoy after dark.