Who in the right mind would want to set up a nightclub in London these days? The authorities give the distinct impression of not wanting you there. The London mayor only takes an interest when there’s votes from young people to be had. And you have Amy Lamé, the Night Czar who is as much of a lame duck as her name implies.
And once you’ve got your venue, you have no end of unscrupulous types who could bring the whole thing crashing down. Including property developers who seem to want to buy the whole of central London and turn it into one enormous office – the increase in the number of people working from home is obviously not something they’ve yet noticed.
Which is why I always found the arrangements of Printworks to be very odd. The land is owned by British Land and they gave events company Broadwick Live permission to run a nightclub there. How long did this permission last? And what happened if a dispute occurred between the two?
Whilst I’m confident solicitors would have resolved these questions beforehand, there was always the possibility British Land might want to do something else with the site. And it turns out they do, as part of the Canada Water Masterplan.
“We have explored a range of future uses for The Printworks and as part of this have taken forward a workspace-led design, for which we’re preparing a Reserved Matters Application. Nonetheless we believe that culture will play an important role as part of a new urban centre at Canada Water, and remain in discussions with Broadwick Live as a key collaborator and tenant, following their success in the Printworks over the last five years.”
Nowhere do words to the effect of “Printworks will remain open after the development” appear. Hardly reassuring…
Governments are notoriously disjointed institutions. When one government is involved, things might be simple enough to follow. But when you have the myriad of parliaments and assemblies that the UK does – and all with different interests and priorities – it soon becomes a headache to keep up with them all.
Back on Tuesday, I reported there was increasing pressure on the London mayor to reopen the Night Tube. I spoke about a petition concerning women’s safety doing the rounds – and I also mentioned the awkward question of the circumstances the government had willingly placed them in.
Today, Khan has announced it will now restart in late November. Good news? Clearly so. But Khan’s motivation for this is questionable. Because anyone with an ounce of common sense would have reopened the Night Tube already. Nightclubs reopened in London back on July 19th, when nearly all English Covid restrictions were ditched – given known shortages of taxi drivers, how did no one in power in London have the foresight to predict this problem?
Instead, Khan now just looks like someone keen to jump on the bandwagon. People – not just women – should clearly be able to get home safely after a night out. But by ignoring the issue for months and suddenly announcing he’s effectively bringing forward the reopening – it was originally scheduled for next year – he simply looks like an opportunist who’s doing it for political gain…
For many years in London, services on the Tube ended at around 1am each day and reopened about 5.30am. This was to allow maintenance jobs to take place and to avoid creating more noise in an already noisy city. Blame for this lies with the Victorians – how dare they fail to foresee over a century into the future, eh?
During the 90s, all kinds of work was done to modernise the network – thus allowing a limited night time service to open in 2014 on Friday and Saturday nights. The service was suspended during the pandemic, notably because it meant there was pretty much nothing open at night. But calls for it to reopen – England lifted almost all its lockdown restrictions nearly three months ago – are getting louder.
There’s just one major problem. Those who talk about its continued closure being a threat to the safety of women are certainly correct – I don’t dispute this. But the reason the Night Tube hasn’t started again in earnest is simple. Money. Or rather, their lack of it.
Allow me to explain. In June 2021, the Government gave Transport for London – who run the Tube – a bailout worth almost £1.1billion. And this wasn’t their first. In May 2020, they received £1.6billion to stop them from going under. The bailouts came with strict conditions – including finding over £300million of spending cuts.
I can’t imagine the Night Tube is cheap to run. Transport for London remains quite heavily unionised by modern standards and they went on strike in the past when the terms being offered for agreeing to the graveyard shifts weren’t to the union’s liking. So bringing it back is going to cost in extra wages, electricity and all the other expenses which come with running train services. Not cheap.
Anyone wanting to bring back London’s Night Tube might therefore be best speaking not to Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, but rather Prime Minister Boris Johnson. And unfortunately, he’s away on holiday. Again…
If you were to say the word Soho to me, the first thing that comes to mind is prostitutes. There’s no other way for me to phrase it. I know there’s lots of shopping opportunities in the area and other things – but I’m afraid to say that top of the pile was the so-called “Models” signs…
Anyway, the residents of Soho recently voted to give themselves more power to decide on planning applications in their area. I can’t help but think this sounds to me like an excuse for politicians to swerve their responsibilities towards their constituents, but what’s happened has happened.
A lot of the media – and that inevitably includes the lazy, supine dance music press – are framing this as some kind of victory for nightlife and a defeat for the evil developers who want to build skyscrapers and expensive new apartments. But isn’t all this rather simplistic?
Isn’t there a real danger of stalemate with this kind of system? Let’s say a planning application goes in for a big skyscraper which will be filled with shops and restaurants. Locals say they don’t want it. The developers go to court. If the courts decide with the locals, it could deter investment in the area in the long-term. If the courts go with the developers, it’ll be seen as ignoring democracy.
I can see this potentially becoming very messy at some point. I happen to believe that nightclubs do need protection – although I also happen to think they could do more to help themselves amidst a context of 26% in a poll being happy to see nightclub disappear forever.
But instead of banging heads and using their diplomatic skills to get developers and nightclub owners to get on and respect each other’s right to exist, Soho politicians have decided to abdicate their duty towards the area. It’s a shameful dereliction of duty and one that’s likely to end with courts having to make more decisions on planning applications, not less…