How can brands play a role in improving London’s cultural nightlife?

By Lea Bourgeteau

5th January 2017

You may (or may not) remember my last blog post about the closing of iconic Farringdon venue Fabric and what it means for London cultural nightlife, and by extension us marketeers and creatives.

Well, this Friday 6th January marks the reopening of Fabric after talks with Islington council and Metropolitan police to have its license reinstated. This also comes after many artists and creatives expressed their shock, sadness and opposition to the decision to close the venue despite the promises by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to preserve London cultural nightlife and landscape.

Not long after the announcement of Fabric’s closure, Sadiq Khan finally appointed his long awaited London Night Czar in the person of Amy Lamé – a broadcaster across BBC Radio, and founder of LGBT club/performance night Duckie.

This new position has been created following the successful appointments of night mayors in the cities of Amsterdam, Zurich and Paris, at a time where a city’s nightlife is increasingly being recognised as a cultural but also an economic landmark. In Amsterdam, night mayor Mirik Milan, a former club promoter, has allowed the creation of a nightlife ‘suburb’ with ten 24-hours venues.

Amy Lamé has stated that she is ‘100% the Night Czar for all Londoners as Nightlife in London is [her] life.’ But what does that mean? While reopening and launching new venues seems like a great way to fight against the dropping number of nightclubs in the UK – from 3,144 clubs in 2005 to 1,733 in 2015 – this also sounds like a risk to democratise clubbing to the point that it loses its legitimacy and identity over mass consumption.

Promoters, artists and cultural figures now have to work hand in hand with brands to go against this phenomenon and preserve a city’s nightlife credibility and authenticity. In its latest ‘2016 drinks’ report, audience agency Protein shows that a drop in London’s nightclubs came with a drop in alcohol consumption. This forces nightlife institutions and brands to work together on new ways to offer great entertaining and musical ‘experiences’ rather than just a simple night out.

In the panel following Protein’s ‘2016 drinks report’ entitled ‘After Hours: New Occasions and Venues’ and taking place on 29th November, Diageo’s Head of Culture and Entertainment Leila Fattar said alcohol brands now need to adapt to changes by identifying ‘chameleon spaces’ transcending the classic club identity. As it gets more difficult to go out and find great clubs to go to, people have become increasingly exigent when it comes to partying and clubbing, dedicating more importance to the music, the venue itself and the whole experience. Increasing the number of clubs might not be sufficient to satisfy this new nightlife cultural approach but creating better clubs might just be the solution.

Therefore, alcohol brands need to reconsider their partnerships with nightlife institutions, and take into account the constant transformation in terms of nightlife spaces where people consume their products to find new and better ways to reach them – festivals, pop-up events, and small-scale spaces such as the newly Brilliant Corners in Dalston, a space that invested in music quality over volume.

In order for London nightlife to be ‘100% for all’, alcohol brands should also look into purpose-led campaigns promoting diversity and inclusivity. For instance, Smirnoff launched a campaign celebrating the deaf community in one of its latest campaigns with the help of deaf dancer Chrif Fonseca to promote their inclusion and role in the city’s nightlife.

Similarly, Guinness has partnered with music live-streaming platform Boiler Room to broadcast the Notting Hill Carnival for the first time last August, mixing a classic popular music tradition with a forefront music institution in a human interest-led campaign.

Leila Fattar concludes that ‘all big brands need to be looking at what is the authentic way to create an in-depth partnership and not just slap a logo next to something’. Way to go!