By Ben Walters
Duckie co-founder and Royal Vauxhall Tavern campaigner Amy Lamé has been announced as London’s first Night Czar, a new role with responsibility to “create a vision for London as 24-hour city and a roadmap showing how the vision will be realised”.
After the creation of the role was announced in September, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it “will bring together key stakeholders including club and venue owners, local authorities, the Metropolitan Police and members of the public”.
Lamé will now work closely with City Hall to address a range of challenges for the capital’s nightlife, not least the huge numbers of venue closures, from landmark sites such as Fabric to hundreds of grassroots spaces.
Lamé said: “I’ll be working hard to stem the flow of venue closures across the capital – 50% of nightclubs and 40% of music venues in London have been lost since 2008. The closure – and threat of closure – to so many clubs, pubs and music venues must stop if London is to retain its reputation for world-class nightlife. I can’t wait to get started championing the capital as a 24-hour city for ALL Londoners!”
Lamé created seminal queer club night Duckie with Simon Casson in 1995 and has hosted it on Saturday nights at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (or RVT) ever since. Lamé has also served as chair of RVT Future, the campaign to protect the iconic LGBTQ+ venue from closure following its purchase in 2014 by international property developers Immovate.
RVT Future has succeeded in making the pub the UK’s first building to be listed for its LGBTQ+ heritage. The campaign has announced plans to launch a community buy-out bid for the Tavern later this month. (Full disclosure: I am also a member of RVT Future and wrote the listing application.)
Lamé’s appointment should be welcome news to those who care about LGBTQ+ venues. Their closure can have especially acute consequences for an already vulnerable population but they are not always acknowledged as a crucial part of the conversation around threats to London’s nightlife. Given her history as a promoter and a social campaigner on various issues, Lamé will need no convincing of the scale or seriousness of the issue.
Born in New Jersey, Lamé moved to London in 1992 and in addition to her work with Duckie has performed at the ICA, Soho Theatre and Hampstead Heath, as well as presenting on BBC radio and television. She was Mayoress of Camden from 2010 to 2011 and sought selection as a Labour Parliamentary candidate before the last election. She is active on a range of issues from LGBTQ+ education to improving representation of women.
RVT Future welcomed the news though it means Lamé will be obliged by City Hall rules to stand down as chair. The group said: “we are beyond proud to see a key member of the campaign win such an important role” and “we are in no doubt that the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is in an even better position with someone of Amy’s knowledge and passion for LGBTQ+ nightlife working for the whole of London”.
Lamé said: “I am honoured to be appointed London’s first Night Czar! But this amazing job means I must stand down as Chair of RVT Future so I can be totally impartial in my role. I will, of course, do all I can to safeguard the capital’s LGBT+ venues. The Mayor has thrown his weight behind the campaign to protect the RVT, one of the capital’s oldest surviving and most iconic LGBT+ venues. I’ll build on this great support in my capacity as London’s Night Czar.”
Campaigners James Cronin and Rob Holley will step up as RVT Future co-chairs as the group prepares to launch a community buy-out bid, believed to be the UK’s biggest, to secure the longterm future of the Tavern. More details on the bid will be released later this month.
The position of Night Czar was advertised for a one-year fixed term paid at £35,000 for 2.5 days a week work. Applicants were asked to show “experience of working in a political environment”, “knowledge of London’s local authorities and licensing framework” and “proven leadership ability, public profile and convening power”.
On a personal note, I’d like to extend huge congratulations to Amy on her appointment – it’s a testament to her passion for social and cultural progress and her sustained and dedicated work over many years, and it’s a bold, positive move by the GLA. The challenges are enormous but I believe Amy will be a superb advocate for the values of community and culture London needs and deserves.