Amsterdam Night Mayor’s Clubland Dream
“In Holland if you’re caught with just one ecstasy tablet you can still get a criminal record but most young people here don’t realize this. That’s a good example of one topic we need to focus on more and try and get some attention on in the media.”
Mirik Milan was elected as Amsterdam’s Night Mayor (nachtburgemeester) in 2013, becoming the city’s fifth such nightlife culture ambassador since authorities first created the role in 2003.
Heavily involved as a promoter and brand strategist both before and after becoming Mayor, he sees himself functioning as an intermediate between city authorities and revellers, with each side often as ignorant of each other as they are about common ground.
“Both the mainstream political scene and clubbing communities are normally very closed and difficult to penetrate for outsiders,” Mirik points out.
“Many clubbers are apathetic and indifferent about political issues relating to nightlife because it’s just not seen as being cool to care. But when the city starts closing down clubs, cancelling festivals or changing legislation that affects them then it soon becomse an issue,” he says.
“The role of the Night Mayor is to be a independent non-profit organisation dedicated to ensuring a dynamic nightlife and helping to build bridges between the municipality, (small) business owners and residents. By creating a mutual understanding, the Night-Mayor changes the game.”
Chatting to Vice’s Thump Magazine last year (http://bit.ly/1Bys5nU ), he listed one of his proudest achievements so far has been in securing Berlin-style 24 hour licences for a handful of Amsterdam clubs including Trouw, and Westerpark though today insists tackling opening hours bylaws remains a top priority.
“The introduction of 24-hour permits in the Hotel and Catering Industry in 2013 marked a major change – we were very actively involved in introducing these licenses,” he says.
“But at this moment there are only 10 licenses for bars and clubs to stay open for 24 hours. The goal for the upcoming years is to provide proof that relaxing opening hours more will help boost an already dynamic nightlife scene even further.”
“By adopting a pragmatic approach we can find smart solutions for a good balance in cities. And speaking personally, I started out in the nightlife scene and I still love to party,” he laughs, “But I also love to sleep.”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): How are you treated by mainstream authorities (politicians, police, Amsterdam’s official mayor?)
Mirik Milan: “We have a really good relationship with the local authorities. They take our opinions seriously and act on them. I speak with the Mayor privately two or three times a year and am in direct contact with all of his team regarding all safety and nightlife issues. The politicians like the fact that I can speak for a bigger group and get direct feedback from the stakeholders in the night.”
Skrufff: How much power do you have in official terms?
Mirik Milan: “Our power lies in being able to influence the mayor, city council and local politicians. They know a lot about a big variety of topics but mostly they have no clue about what’s important for the nightlife scene. So we help them take the right decisions and not just act in response to scare stories reported in the media or by groups of people complaining at City Hall.”
Skrufff: How much of a threat do gentrifiers and big business genuinely present to club culture? What should clubs and clubbers be doing to fight back?
Mirik Milan: “Off course clubs should fight back. But what I think is most important it that someone like a Night Mayor tells the local authorities to have some integrity towards the nightclubs. Nightclubs help develop run down and poor neighborhoods into creative hotspots. I think it’s the role of the city’s administration to remember the positive things that the night scene brings to the city.”
Skrufff: What’s your view of club culture and how it’s perceived internationally: where are authorities most understanding?
Mirik Milan: “I think it’s going well in San Francisco and also of course Amsterdam. And during my recent visits to Sao Paulo and Rio to speak at Rio Music Conference, I understood the new way of thinking and looking at nightlife as a meeting point for creative talent is being more embraced in Brazil in general.
A city’s nightlife contributes and strengthens the (inter)national position of cities around the world. Like-minded individuals find each other in clubs and bars and creative talent develops, allowing the creative industry to bloom which in turn increases local urban economies.”
The nightlife scene and music industry changed a lot when first Myspace kicked in. You could contact all the artists directly and this opened up the underground to the rest of the world. Nowadays again it’s more difficult as an independent artist or promoter to go around big agents and managers.
Also with globalization it easier to live anywhere in the world and this makes the competition between cities even harder. Therefore it’s vitally important for a city to think about how nightlife is set up to attract people to want to live in their city.”
Skrufff: What’s your view of Berlin?
Mirik Milan: “A couple of years ago a lot of my friends from the nightly creative industry moved to Berlin. But also a lot of them soon came back because Berlin is also a tough market. Wages are low and the city is not rich but rents are getting more and more expensive. “
Skrufff: How about London?
Mirik Milan: “London is a whole different ballgame in this respect. It’s just so expensive that many people have roommates until they’re 40.
I think the nightlife world should be available to everyone and we should not just be focusing on mainstream dance music or the best known cities.. As the Night Mayor we fight for rights of all clubbers and partygoers. If nightlife is good and cool in your own city then you don’t have to move out to somewhere like London or Berlin. You will be happy with what’s going own in your own city, big or small.”