What do you most associate ‘Camden’ with?

For many, it will be our famous nightlife – the grungy music spots, iconic pubs, theatres in the West End and intimate gigs. From people starting their careers to the best-known international stars across the world performing here for adoring crowds.

But despite this rich cultural past, we know there are huge threats to Camden’s evening and night-time economy.

In 2011, Camden had the sixth largest night-time economy in the UK, with an annual turnover of £955.9m.

But since then the sector has suffered numerous blows. Covid hit hard, despite huge efforts to plug the gaps. Covid support grants of £380m have helped keep many of our pubs, bars, restaurants and cultural venues open – but inflation, energy costs and staffing challenges is preventing them from bouncing back.

We’re in an era of rapid technological and social change. Do Gen Z adults want a different night-time offering to their predecessors? Undoubtedly.

Ham & High: Cllr Danny Beales is working to save the evening and night-time economy of Camden TownCllr Danny Beales is working to save the evening and night-time economy of Camden Town (Image: Camden Council)

Rightly, residents and visitors expect that their nights out will be safe and free from harassment. We must respond to these safety concerns and maintain an eclectic, exciting night-time experience that reflects the diversity of our communities.

We also must recognise the evening economy is a wide variety of activities and needs. From the nurse on a nightshift at UCLH, the bus driver keeping our buses moving, to those working in our theatres or takeaway food businesses.

This week the council discussed how this evening and night-time offer must adapt to survive and thrive. A key part of this was reviewing the findings of the Citizen Assembly we convened earlier this year to examine this issue.

We have used citizen assemblies in the past to look at issues which are beyond the capabilities of one single organisation to solve – like our local action against the climate crisis. They bring together a representative range of our residents, industry experts and key partners to create recommendations on a way forward.

The assembly’s report, which you can read on our website, sets some bold ambitions. It acknowledges the range of measures which will need to be in place to achieve this – from well-judged licensing right through to better transport and toilet provision.

The assembly’s recommendations will be the bedrock of our emerging evening and night-time strategy and updated licencing policy, which will be consulted on in the coming months.

I’m confident that this thoughtful, inclusive and innovative process will help us deliver an expanded, successful and increasingly diverse evening and night-time economy so more people can experience the very best arts, culture and entertainment as well as good employment opportunities in the years ahead.

Cllr Danny Beales is cabinet member for New Homes, Jobs and Community Investment, Camden Council.