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Night Culture: The Role of ‘Night Mayors’ in Entertainment and Economy

By: Tess Buckley

Berlin’s Club der Visionare.

In an increasingly urbanized world, more individuals have become interested in studying the growth of cities, economic development and cultural management. Overtime, urban planning and management programs have been implemented to increase activity. All of these programs have one limitation in common: the night. I often wonder what happens in and to cites when it gets dark - Who governs when we all fall asleep? The role of ‘Night Mayor’ is being put in place in many cities to help implement night policies and facilitate a thriving nightlife. There was no real activity in this field until 2012 – 2014 when Night Charters and Councils were introduced. When I think of night culture, images of parties and bars come to mind; however, more cities are realizing their untapped potential for both social and economical value in the night economies. Although the night is a space for dancing, and other social activities, the dark is also synonymous with fear. Night Mayors have been implemented across the globe and tasked with the role of recovering the night and turning it into a key space for coexistence and socialization.

The Night Mayor: Maintaining Nocturnal Vibrancy

Mirik Milan, Night Mayor of Amsterdam.

In 2013, Clément Léon became the night mayor of Paris and in 2014, Mirik Milan became the ‘Night Mayor’ of Amsterdam. Years later, over 60 cities in the world have a Night Mayor or some variation of such a figure. There are different ‘meanings’ of the Night Mayor in different countries. In the Netherlands, Japan and a variety of other players, the Night Mayor is a figure with a high cultural profile, often a DJ. The media were bemused by such an eccentric idea and profiles of Mirik were picked up by journalistic writers and shared widely. I must add that the photogenic figures and their connections to grassroots cultural activities in their designated cities enhanced not only their newsworthiness but also their cities. These appointed individuals responsible for maintaining nocturnal vibrancy from around the world are revealing that, though cities differ greatly in their approach towards night-time infrastructure and regulation, there seems to be growing consensus on the need for permanent nocturnal governance structures. By encouraging greater dialogue and experimentation, these structures are challenging traditional approaches to urban governance and paving the way for a new wave of studies on the urban night.

The Night: A Political Territory

Kazan City Night Aerial View.

The night is a political territory, not because there are “night people” who share certain ideas and political values, rather, the night is a space of conflicts and inequalities which may be different in kind and scale than those of the day.

The role of a Night Mayor is both exciting and disappointing all at once for me – on one hand they focus on the growth of night culture while simultaneously killing it. Gentrifying and beginning to govern spaces that have been left to lead themselves for centuries. Do we really need to change a good thing?

To Learn More:

Carpe Noctem: How Cities can take Advantage of the Night

Governing the night-time city: The rise of night mayors as a new form of urban governance after dark

Linda Poon. ‘So You Want to be a Night Mayor.’

La noche como oportunidad de revitalización urbana en América Latina

Michael Rancic. ‘Does Toronto need a Night Mayor?’

Brenda Grunau. ‘Night Mayors: In Praise of Night.

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