The Night Czar's night surgery: Discovering London's life at night
On March 10 I visited the boroughs of Waltham Forest and Hackney as part of my regular night surgeries. Along the way I discovered some hidden pockets of flourishing night time activity, and met with people who work through the night. From A&E staff to a team of brewers, venue operators, night shelter volunteers, firefighters, restaurant workers, and street pastors.
I was awestruck by the commitment and resilience shown by the staff of Homerton Hospital. With several night GPs, domestics, receptionists and nurses swirling around us, it was a timely reminder of the devotion shown by those who work at night all across town. For London to transition into a fully-fledged 24hr city, we must ensure that those working at night have access to the same conditions as those who work during the day.
Of course, London’s late night cultural offering is hugely important to a 24hr city as well. I visited an industrial estate in Walthamstow where three sites are redefining the area’s nightlife and bringing a unique vibe to the neighbourhood. The Wildcard Brewery brews and serves its own beer on the premises, and the owner of Mother’s Ruin Gin Bar forages for her ingredients around East London. We even came across a disco yoga session at God’s Own Junkyard, a bar showcasing a huge display of neon signs and props. Disco yoga! London definitely needs more of that!
Life at night is defined differently by every Londoner. Partygoers, workers and residents are as equally important to London as a 24hr city. That is why I prefer the term ‘life at night’ over ‘nightlife’ when talking about my work, as I feel it is more inclusive, and is what makes London such a vibrant and attractive place to live in.
Other European destinations are regularly mentioned as shining examples of 24hr cities, which I feel is slightly unfair to London. Our capital operates on a huge scale, and with so much going on, it is easy for things to go unnoticed. The aim of my night surgeries is to unearth some of these hidden gems, and learn about some of the hopes, concerns and dreams Londoners have for our city at night.
I was lucky to be joined by some fantastic people over the course of the evening. Thank you to Cllr Clare Coghill and Mark Inger from Waltham Forest council, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch Meg Hillier, and Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville for giving up their Friday night to show me around.
I would also like to thank Dalston Superstores and Voodoo Ray’s owner Dan Beaumont, Luke Bruce from the Winter Night Shelter, and Old Street Fire Station Watch Manager Shaun Coltress for their hospitality.
On my next surgery I will be visiting Southwark and Lewisham, so look out for me!