Amy Lame is impressively bright-eyed when she sits down with City A.M., considering she’s had a late one the night before at the DJ Mag awards.
But then she is London’s new night czar. “I’m kind of used to it,” she tells City A.M. while finishing off a “very strong coffee”.
“I’ve never had a nine to five job, and this is like a 9pm to 5am job!” Lame adds.
She spends much of the day at City Hall, has a couple of hours break for a “disco nap”, then heads off in the evening to carry out more night czar duties. The job description billed the position as two and a half days’ work, in exchange for helping turn London into a 24-hour city.
In reality, her hours are “well over and above the two and a half days a week”.
Indeed, despite the jazzy title, the night czar responsibilities include tough challenges: since 2008, London has lost 40 per cent of its live music venues and 50 per cent of its nightclubs.
“I’m not going to beat around the bush, this isn’t something that happens overnight,” Lame says. “The task is mammoth.”
She has seen first-hand the challenges many of the capital’s hotspots face. The US-born, naturalised British comedian and broadcaster, led the campaign to save the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, where she’s hosted a club night for 21 years, from developers.
Her first job in London was at a late night café-bar in Soho, which was later demolished to make way for Crossrail, and with the Crossrail 2 route lined up through both Dalston and Chelsea, Lame acknowledges there are concerns for nightlife disruption elsewhere too.
“I think it’s important to have the conversations before the worry sets in,” Lame says. “This is a situation that keeps happening over and over; this proves why we need a night czar in London.”
She references the situation with Fabric nightclub in Farringdon – that faced closure over two drug-related deaths of teenagers, but has since been allowed to open, with strict conditions in place.
“If I had been in the role before, or someone had been night czar, I don’t think it would have got to the crisis point,” Lame says.
“My role is to make sure that everyone gets the kind of life at night they want,” Lame says. “Whether that’s a good night’s sleep, whether that’s raving until five in the morning, or whether it’s, for most of us, somewhere in between.
She’s relishing the challenge, but has already faced a barrage of criticism. The mayor had only just announced Lame as night czar last month, when a flurry of controversy erupted over her appointment.
Her offensive tweets were combed through, including fantasising over “bitch-slapping” David Cameron, and queries raised over whether she had the business expertise for the role.
Lame has deleted the tweets and says she’s “just keen to move on”.
“I would say do you want to be part of the problem or the solution, because I need people who are going to be part of the solution,” she says. “I’ve not lived my life preparing to be in public service; I come from a background in entertainment. I have said some provocative things on Twitter, but I deleted the ones that people felt were offensive and I won’t be tweeting like that in the future.”
To kick off her tenure, Lame’s holding a range of night surgeries – the first of which was on Friday – to find out what people like and don’t like about the capital’s nightlife.
“I think the most popular thing people have asked me to do is get cafes to open later,” she says, noting that many people finish late shifts and want somewhere to relax, not just drink.
“Entertainment will always be the backbone of the night-time economy, but at the same time there are so many other things that haven’t been explored,” she adds. “I often say I’d like to do the things that are everyday tasks but do them at 10 o’clock at night: I’d love to get my hair cut, I’d love to get my nails done.”
“We haven’t really engaged with people who are working in the night-time economy and what their specific needs are,” Lame points out. “I think if I can look at making that happen, that’s one positive change.”