Bristol has had an advisory night-time panel since 2018, where nightclubs meet with people from licensing, planning and musician’s unions. It’s one thing to have discussions, but if nothing practical happens, then conversations become cyclical. After a couple of years, Bristol City Council started to recognise the importance of the night-time economy and appointed me as the night-time economy advisor.
I always say “the city doesn’t stop at 6 o’clock”; people live in cities because there are jobs, sure, but also because there’s something to do in the evening. Lots of the decisions taken by local councils that impact businesses working between 6pm and 6am are made without industry at the table, so having a night- time economy advisor means that you can influence common sense decision-making and show that industry can be part of the solution, rather than something that exists purely as problematic for the Local Authority.
When I started in April 2020, I was keen to deal with smaller issues straight away for some quick, public wins; to justify the role and allow us to work on long-term goals. Of course, though, the immediate concern was reopening, which was a massive, complex issue involving vaccine passports and the “pingdemic”. But Covid-19 aside, we were also concerned about reopening because we had 18 months’ worth of 18-year-olds all rushing to go out at once. To address this, we created the Bristol Rules campaign, which was designed around five themes to welcome people back to the city and discuss safety and accountability.
First: “Out together, home together”, don’t leave your mates behind. This new generation are so used to being connected on mobile phones that they often wander off alone.
Second: “Call it out”, how to be an active bystander if your mate is behaving badly. It’s about giving people the permission to say, “Don’t be like that, that’s not okay”.
Third: “Don’t be a ”, dealing with harassment. This isn’t intended for more serious elements of sexual assault. This is about persistent bad behaviour. It’s not acceptable and, if it happens, the security staff are there to eject that person from the venue.
Fourth: “Respect everybody”, because when you go to a club, the vibe is only as good as the one you bring with you.
Fifth: “Keep away from the edge”, a warning about being intoxicated along our waterways.
Sixth: “Take it easy”, our harm reduction message. We can’t say things like “Go low, take it slow” because that’s seen to promote drug use, so “Take it easy” is a kind of “Pace not disgrace” messaging that’s appropriate for the audience and for the Local Authority. It’s a delicate balance between having something that’s going to be well-received by audiences and come from a point of care, rather than framing nightlife as a dark and dangerous place. I’m here to elevate the night, not degenerate it.