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A New Dawn: Kitty Lester on the UK's Evolving Nightlife

Kitty Lester runs boutique London-based PR agency Childhood PR, specialising in music & arts events and brands. She’s worked with the likes of You Me Bum Bum Train and Underbelly to Field Day, Oval Space and Sonar Reykjavik. Kitty was Executive Producer on Eventbrite’s new short film, A New Dawn: Meet The Future Of Nightlife. Here she writes for Run Riot on the disruptors and driving forces behing the new night-time economy.

For the past few years, one narrative has dominated mainstream media when it comes to talking about nightlife: doom and gloom. An ongoing onslaught of news stories paint a depressing picture. Clubs are closing down in the thousands (famously half of UK nightclubs have closed in the last 10 years). 27 pubs are said to close each week. The troubles that many nightclubs such as Fabric face – and the consequent outcry and petitions to save them – are highly publicsed. Prominent figures from the nightlife industry such as BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac have released films titled Who Killed The Night?. Alcohol consumption continues to decline while the number of Netflix subscriptions continues to skyrocket.

But isn’t nightlife about more than boozing and clubs? That’s the question that led to me producing a short film for Eventbrite, the global events marketplace and ticketing platform, entitled A New Dawn: Meet the Future of UK Nightlife. Why a film? Why now? Well being at the forefront of the events industry, Eventbrite had a unique vantage point. They saw that there was in fact a different story at play; a positive story that has been emerging that has yet to be told.

The message of the film is simple: nightlife isn’t dead, it’s evolving. Yes, the combination of soaring rents, austerity Britain, problematic legislation and declining alcohol consumption means that this is a particularly challenging time for the industry. But as history has demonstrated, it’s exactly these challenges and these types of tensions that provide the catalyst for positive change. Events organisers are a resilient bunch, and will always find a way to thrive in tough times. As Time Out’s Oli Keens rightly says in the film, “We’ve danced through adversity so many times, from The Blitz to the Criminal Justice Bill.”

Part of this is also due to the industry’s cyclical nature - every so often the scene becomes stale before a fresh wave of creativity explodes into life. This leads to what journalist and DJ Kate Hutchinson describes as a “shift in awareness of what nightlife means.”

Indeed, this forward facing view is the basis for A New Dawn, in which our objective was to focus on innovative new events and shine a spotlight on the new guardians of the night; the disruptors around the UK pushing the events industry forward. Think of it as a form of survival of the fittest, if you will. From sober, rise-and-rave events such as Morning Gloryville to Alfresco Disco’s pop-up parties, promoters who think outside the box are the ones that are able to buck the trend.

Today, people demand more from their experiences. They want experiences that are more compelling than simply bobbing their head to DJs in a darkened club or warehouse. They want big events, new experiences, and parties in which the visuals and the atmosphere are just as important as the music. The word “immersive” repeats like a mantra throughout the documentary.

Music remains the heart of the experience, but today there is a need for so much more in nightlife. The definition of a venue is becoming ever more blurred. It could be a large multi-purpose location such as London’s Printworks or simply a disused site on the edge of a city that’s been repurposed for one night only. The possibilities are endless and that’s why it’s such an exciting time for nightlife.

When we started making this film, it was clear that the scene was struggling. The opening of an all-night tube and the appointment of a Night Czar demonstrates that the authorities are slowly making steps in the right direction. But the real progress comes with the people. Promoters with a sense of adventure and an entrepreneurial spirit are reigniting the excitement that the industry provides. And people are backing those who get it right by attending in their droves.

Nightlife is certainly different to what it was, but the latest evolution is a huge opportunity for reinvention. It’s a new dawn.

A New Dawn: Meet The Future of UK Nightlife