Insomniacs’ cafe among ‘impressive’ ideas for Camden’s night life

London’s night czar Amy Lamé. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Alcohol-free places for families and young people, an insomniacs’ café and places of worship open late could all feature in Camden’s night-time economy.

The London mayor’s night czar, Amy Lamé, said residents and late-night businesses have thought of “practical and inspiring ideas” at a citizens’ assembly looking at Camden after dark.

She outlined ideas such as a café for those still awake in the small hours, saying “count me in,” at a themed debate on Camden’s £995m-a-year late night economy.

The citizens’ assembly is first gathering of its kind in the UK to help develop a late-night strategy.

Lamé told the full council meeting (MON 20 NOV): “It’s impressive that the voices of people who live, work, visit and do business in Camden have been heard so clearly.”

Suggestions included a night-time lido, free or subsidised places for young people to meet at night and night-time guardians to help people feel safe.

Lamé added: “The assembly has also highlighted the importance of retaining Camden’s radical heritage and iconic, grassroots live music venues such as the Dublin Castle and the Electric Ballroom.”

They also wanted the borough to be safer, she said.

The citizens’ assembly proposed signing up more venues as trusted spaces, bus conductors and more request stops and training communities “to be active bystanders and support each other”.

Camden’s evening and late-night is the UK’s sixth largest night-time economy, with 113,700 jobs, and attracts visitors to areas including Camden Town and Covent Garden.

The borough is home to seven per cent of London’s key cultural venues, including music venues Koko and the Electric Ballroom, and the Etcetera Theatre in Camden High Street.

The night-time economy strategy the citizens’ assembly helped create at gatherings earlier this year will be considered by the council’s senior politicians in February.

Cllr Danny Beales, the cabinet member for new homes, jobs and community investment, said: “The night-time economy makes Camden a special place to visit.”

He said it includes key workers such as hospital porters, nurses, and transport workers, as well as those who work in the leisure industry.

“It enriches the borough culturally, economically and socially.”

Cllr Beales said vibrant night life can come with a downside.

“Everyone should feel safe and welcome going out on a night in Camden. We know that woman often do not feel safe.”

Lamé told councillors: “Men need to change their behaviour. The onus is on our brothers to be our allies.”

Shaheda Rahman from the council’s community safety team highlighted its community safety hub in Camden Town which offers support to women and girls on a night out.

There are plans to extend this to Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, with a mobile safety hub in Parkway this winter to help people get home safely late at night.

Henry Conlon from the Dublin Castle, which championed Camden band Madness, said: “It is a difficult job to balance the residents’ concerns and the business community.”

Conlon said the proposed strategy is “daring, pioneering and demonstrates a strong will”.

He welcomed suggestions to improve working conditions for people who work late at night in Camden.

Kate Gemmell from Tenants and Residents Association of Camden Town (TRACT) told councillors the citizens’ assembly report was “shockingly naïve” and has no “strategic objectives”.

She highlighted problems of anti-social behaviour, including people urinating in the street.

“The current situation in Camden Town is appalling, well past its tipping point, controlling the impact of the night-time economy on the local community.

“Each morning our streets are knee-deep in rubbish and the pavements covered in urine, vomit and drugs paraphernalia,” she said.

Gemmell said the council does not have enough resources to monitor noise problems.

“We don’t want to be woken up at night and we don’t want to be surrounded by filth.”

Beales said residents can sometimes feel disturbed by revellers and highlighted that the community needs to work together to improve things.

“We need to nip bad practices in the bud.”

Sophie Asquith from the Music Venues Trust said complaints about noise can force to grass roots music spaces to reduce their hours and could face closure with reduced income.

She said planning and licencing rules can help avert problems, especially when new homes are built.

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