Up all night: can we handle a 24-hour city?

Sunday 18 October, 17.30 until 18.45, Free Stage, Barbican Contemporary Controversies

The announcement by Transport for London that they would be running a Night Tube service provoked much excitement about the prospect that London can finally compete with the likes of New York, Berlin and Tokyo as thriving 24-hour metropolises. For many, the move marked a natural extension of the same process which drove the liberalisation of licensing restrictions in 2003, and a further boon to the capital’s thriving £66 billion night-time economy. Furthermore, it is hoped, the changes could generate potentially significant social changes, with theatres and restaurants able to open later and even small businesses such as gyms and cafes able to offer more flexible opening hours with workers able to commute more easily at all hours.

Yet despite a seeming consensus from commuters and business alike that such a move was long overdue, its introduction has been beset with problems. Industrial action from tube workers objecting to the terms of the service provoked a series of strikes which potentially delayed its introduction. More remarkably, the Night Tube’s introduction has coincided with concern from business-owners that the night-time economy is being increasingly restricted by tough regulations imposed by local authorities aimed at curbing anti-social behaviour and other associated problems of late-opening venues. The Forward Into The Night report commissioned by the newly formed Night Time Industries Association points to a string of closures of otherwise successful bars and clubs as evidence that nightlife is seriously threatened by such measures. Councils insist, however, that a careful balance needs to be struck between the opportunities of night-time revelry and the needs of an increasingly densely populated inner city.

Does the Night Tube offer a unique opportunity to transform London life, or will its benefits offer more marginal gains to night-time commuters? Is London too crowded and developed to effectively implement large-scale changes, or is it the challenge for infrastructure catching up to inevitable demands of modern city-living? How should regulators balance the challenges of burgeoning nightlife with the needs of local communities? Does opposition to the night-time city jeopardise London’s reputation as a genuinely global, cosmopolitan centre?

Listen to the debate

Dr Philip Hadfield
associate fellow, University of Leeds; author, Nightlife and Crime

Mark Littlewood
director general, Institute of Economic Affairs

David McNeill
director of public affairs and stakeholder engagement, Transport For London

Alan Miller
chairman, Night Time Industries Association (NTIA)

Barbara Speed
staff writer, CityMetric, New Statesman

David Bowden
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer

Produced by
Alan Miller chairman, Night Time Industries Association (NTIA)
Recommended readings
Forward into the Night

The changing landscape of Britain's cultural and economic life

Frank Furedi, Night Time Industries Association, 2015

Does London Really Want To Be A 24-Hour City?

The forthcoming 24-hour tube will make London more accessible for night time culture, but restrictive licensing and development policy seem to clash with that sentiment?

Richard Brown, Londonist, 24 June 2015

We must fight for our right to party

Killjoy bureaucrats are regulating clubbing out of existence.

David Bowden, spiked, 18 June 2015

After dark

London is becoming a 24-hour city

Economist, 4 October 2014

Impact of the Night Tube on London's Night-time Economy

The new Night Tube service will open up London’s night-time economy to a whole host of new opportunities, altering the way that people behave and the way that businesses choose to operate. It will support and help maintain London’s status as a vibrant and exciting place to live, work and visit.

TfL, 9 September 2014

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