Equality and inclusion key to recovery, as night-time workforce side-lined in pandemic

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Community strength: Amy Lamé, Carly Heath and Michael Kill discuss the industry's past and future (Getty/ Hinterhaus Productions)
Community strength: Amy Lamé, Carly Heath and Michael Kill discuss the industry's past and future (Getty/ Hinterhaus Productions)

Related tags NTIA Bristol London Night time economy coronavirus

Leading night-time economy advisers joined forces to discuss the economic, cultural and community value of the night-time sector at the Night Time Economy Summit in Bristol last Friday (8 April 2022).

London’s night czar Amy Lamé, Bristol’s night-time economy adviser Carly Heath and the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) chief executive Michael Kill believed the workforce should have been better cared for during the pandemic, with diversity and inclusion vital when moving forward. 

Nonetheless, there were silver linings to the situation: with local authorities working closely with the sector, and barriers broken between highbrow and grassroots venues, the pandemic saw the industry come together as a community. 

London’s night czar Amy Lamé’s job changed during the pandemic. Beforehand, London’s night-time economy was on an “upward trajectory”. Yet, Covid meant her job changed from growing the economy to keeping it alive.  

Equality, diversity and inclusion were key factors of recovery, Lamé’ believed. “White people, white men in particular are very good at taking up space,” she said, and continued to state she would like a more equitable future for people at night. 

With 1.6m people working regularly at night in London, the night time industries make up one third of the workforce, with 2.3m people busy each night in London.  

While the pandemic meant many venues closed, this created opportunities for others to jump into that space, she said. Kill referred to this as a process of ‘cannibalisation’; moving places forward so not to lose them.  

Helping venues survive

The night czar was also now focused on helping grassroots venues survive. “These are the big operators of the future,” she said. “Without these, our cities die.” 

During the pandemic, Lamé’s greatest worry was the “unknown unknowns”. She said: “Nobody knew about Omicron, and nobody had a roadmap.” The pandemic presented a “real shock” to the industry, which was the first to close, and the last to reopen.  

However, while central Government, local government and businesses were not prepared for the ever-changing Covid situation, this meant everyone dropped their defences with an attitude of “we’re in it together, let’s more forward,” said Lamé.  

In fact, that there was not greater conflict between businesses and local government was dubbed a success by Lamé, who labelled local authorities the pandemic’s “unsung heroes”.  

Carly Heath, who became Bristol’s first night-time economy adviser in 2021, was now focusing on safety and refamiliarizing people to nightlife after the pandemic. This would include moving the sector on from Covid, with a specific target on harm reduction, 18 year olds and the new workforce.  

The biggest challenge from the pandemic, for Heath, was the loss of staff. When reopening, the rug was repeatedly pulled out from underneath the sector, she said, adding, “how do we look after our workforce when they are not looked after by central Government?” 

More support for the workforce

Nonetheless, she believed there were moments of joy that had came out of the national trauma. During the pandemic, barriers were broken down between the highbrow and grassroots venues getting funding in Bristol, with bigger sites helping their smaller counterparts.  

She also would have liked the night-time industries workforce to be looked after better, and believed it was the promoters, technicians, musicians and taxi drivers that were the sector’s “unsung heroes”. It was important, she said, to try and support all workers in the industry.  

Heath also said local councils and businesses were finding out about the new regulations through the press, and these should’ve been better communicated. Now restrictions had lifted, her goal was to reshape Bristol like a “phoenix from the ashes” and she felt “blessed” that she was tasked with opening up the sector rather than closing it down. 

NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said if the night-time economy was embedded into Government in the same way sport was, then it might be in a much better position. “It’s about getting a seat at the table,” he believed, and said it was important to work globally to make data sets that showed the industry’s importance.  

“In some respects,” said Kill, “we are coming out of one crisis into another”, referring to the pressures facing the sector such as soaring inflation, the cost of living crisis and an increase in VAT. However, he believed the industry should strive towards where it sees itself in ten years time. 

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