Big Ideas

The Night Shift

Inside an innovative summit about the role of 'night mayor' — an idea that is spreading around the world.

nm fAs Amsterdam’s Night Mayor, Mirik Milan doesn’t wield official power. He was elected by an internet vote and a panel of Amsterdam business and bar owners to the job, which is funded jointly by the city and business owners.

But the position is a serious one: Milan works with city officials, residents, and businesses to resolve conflicts over things like noise and safety, while championing the benefits of nightlife to the culture and economy. The role of night mayor goes back to the 1970s in the Netherlands, and is catching on globally. Last year, Pittsburgh appointed the less colorfully named “nighttime economy coordinator,” and London Mayor Sadiq Khan is adding “night czar” as a paid staff position.

Milan was an organizer of the Night Mayor Summit, held April 22–23 in Amsterdam, which drew more than 200 attendees.  “Everyone showed up early,” Milan said. And the number of press outlets that covered the event — 52 — “was insane.”

The summit was held on the heels of the EU Capital Mayors’ Meeting, also in Amsterdam. And while most of the agenda took place during the day, the event venue was a nightclub. “We didn’t want our convention to be in a conventional venue,” said Ella Overkleeft, project manager for the two-day program. “A night mayor is all about alternatives, [being] nonconventional, experiments, and edginess. Plus, we wanted to set the mood just right for the topics we’d be discussing.”

 True to its tagline, “A Serious Playground,” the Night Mayor Summit mixed serious discussion between politicians and nightlife professionals on topics including public health and boosting innovation in city infrastructure with nighttime tours led by locals and visiting night mayors.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor of Convene.