Mirik Milan, is the Night Mayor of Amsterdam and describes himself as a ‘Rebel in a suit’. We sit down with this rebel to chat more about his duties, his thoughts on the evolution of night life and enjoying nights out without alcohol and why alcohol brands are responding to the trend of drinking less.
Describe what the role of the Night Mayor is?
The Night-Mayor is an independent non-profit organisation dedicated to ensure a dynamic nightlife and helps to build bridges between the municipality, (small) business owners and residents. By creating a mutual understanding, the Night-Mayor changes the game.
How did this role come about?
The NGO was founded in 2014 because the city’s nightlife contributes and strengthens the (inter)national position of Amsterdam a as creative capital. Here, like-minded individuals find each other and creative talent develops, allowing the creative industry to bloom which in turn increases urban economy.
How has nightlife changed in the last 3-5 years? And what can we expect it to look like in the future? Positive and negative?
Cities are different but what people want is more or less the same in every city. We always stay focused on quality instead of quantity. The night Mayor focusses a lot on booking based venue’s and nightclubs. People want to go out not as much but when they do they want a longer night and more quality. That’s why day time festivals are also so popular. Amsterdam is a city of innovation. The introduction of 24-hour permits in for 10 nightclubs in 2013 marked a major change. The Night-Mayor was actively involved in introducing these licenses. It was a significant moment for the city of Amsterdam.
Have you seen any particular cities go through different changes and how?
London has a big problem at the moment. Nightlife is seen as something bad with the authorities so they eliminate as soon as possible. over 50% of the night clubs and 40% of the grassroots live music venue’s closed their doors in the last 5 to 7 years. Fabric being the last one of them. It’s just crazy how the whole creative industry understands the value of nightlife for a city but so view people see the bigger picture.
The trend for millennials to drink less, what affect is this having on nightlife and socialising? Recent research conducted buy HEINEKEN revealed that 71% of millennials believe their life is better when they moderate. 1 in 3 limit how much they drink on a night out. I think it’s a good sign. Moderation is something which should come naturally and via your friends and peers. Great to see that people always make their own choices based on cultural and social structures. That’s why we have to invest in these communities.
Are any and how are brands, nightclubs and alcohol companies responding to this?
In my opinion sub cultures shape the way mainstream culture thinks and reacts in the end. Idea’s start small and slowly they reach the service. Nightclubs are the ideal places for innovation. Traditionally brands follow sub cultures and early adopters. It’s great that non-alcoholic beer is becoming bigger and bigger. You don’t always want to drink and it’s becoming more normal to not drink alcohol all the time. I don’t drink alcohol for one month every year to prove to myself I can do it and to feel better. A lot of dj’s and nightlife people do this nowadays. I see this becoming a bigger trend. I love having a non-alcoholic beer when I don’t drink or during the week after work.
Companies that are helping change drinking behaviour are alcohol brands themselves – through making moderation cool in their advertising. Some of them are pretty bold, like in Heineken®’s most recent F1 “When you Drive Never Drink’’ ad Sir Jackie Stewart turns down a beer 8 times and literally says ‘’No Thanks’’ to a Heineken®. Brands have the creativity to showcase the right behaviours and do it in a cool way. Equally, 0% beers are on the increase, with all major beer producers launching a product to support this trend from Budweiser to San Miguel to Amstel. Diageo has recently invested in non-alcoholic drink Seedlip and Heineken celebrates an annual Enjoy Responsibly day, where staff come together to brainstorm ideas on how to develop future initiatives to support responsible drinking. At the Rio Olympics 2016, in Holland Heineken House, the brand launched a new product called ‘This one is On Us’ a water tap on the bar which allows consumers to help themselves to water and to drink moderately.
We know you were recently involved in Heineken ‘Enjoy responsibly day’, what was this? And how did you get involved?
Last year I did a talk with Heineken at Enjoy Responsibly day on the role of the night mayor and pilots we’re running together with the city for a safe and welcoming nightlife scene. This year, I was involved in a brainstorming session at the Heineken headquarters in Amsterdam to generate innovative ideas to help encourage drinking responsibly by thinking about what different experiences you can have on a night out to make it more memorable. Heineken is doing great things in this space and really championing drinking responsibly.
What did you and the participants get out of the day?
That nightlife shouldn’t be too much about drinking but rather it is about connecting and having fun. The challenge was to ‘’Design a Night to Remember’’ and in a city like Amsterdam you can do so much more than only drink. The offer for nights like this should go up so people have options.
In the meantime having a 0,0% beer also works fine. And you still can have a normal conversation or flirt a bit at 3am!! 🙂 The participants got inspirations from lots of different people and came up with some cool ideas – the idea now is to bring some of these to life.
What initiatives have you implemented in Amsterdam that you think other cities around the world might adopt?
24 hours licenses for clubs. Last year there was a report from the UK that proved what we’re saying. If people can decided when they can come in and go out has a positive effect on their behaviour.
You can only change behaviour with focusing on the positive. You need to have a good alternative, not be restricted. And off course every city should adopt the idea that nightlife strengthens the position of a city instead of looking at it is something negative.
How do you see the future of nightlife changing both in Amsterdam and around the world 10, 20, 50 years from now?
I hope that contemporary art and clubs culture will combine their strengths. Art should come out of just being viewed in the museum and move more to the street and in nightclubs. attending a concert or dj set and afterwards walking into a gigantic art installation would be amazing. Today’s Art festival in Den Haag does a lot of crazy stuff also Mutek in Montreal is something I love. But for nightlife alone I predict there will be a counter culture like what we had in the sixties. People are on their phones way too much. This has nothing to do with the content they get. A screen in front of your face is just addictive. People tend to forget having a conversation – just talking all night is the best way to let go. Far too many people burn out at a really young age also because nobody chills out anymore. And I can know this and also are struggling with it every day. In Nightlife you can just put your phone a side and have fun. who needs a picture anyway which you will never look at afterwards. It’s all about mental pictures!!
What are your thoughts on Fabric closing?
It’s insane that the Boroughs have so much power and the Mayor of London so little. Did you know that the Fabric opened before there was a Mayor installed in London? Mayor of London was installed in 2000 Fabric opened in 1999. Blaming one club for a societal problem makes absolutely no sense to me. It for sure doesn’t creates a much needed behavioural change under young clubber. With Fabric closing they just will go underground to places where there is absolutely no control what so ever. London should have a strategy for the city. Clubs like Fabric are internationally well know so they should be in the international strategy for the city.
You also filmed a piece with YouTuber Steve Booker showing your own ‘night to remember’ in Amsterdam, how did you enjoy the night out without alcohol?
Oh we had so much fun. To support Enjoy Responsibly day I designed ‘A night to remember’. A city tour around the city to all kinds of cool hotspots where the focus is not on drinking alone. In my role as the Night Mayor we always focus on safe and high quality nightlife. Together with Steve Booker who filmed the whole thing we went out all night a got home sober and still could do fun stuff the next day (video below)
What was the last thing you saw that made you stop and stare?
Last moment I stopped and stared was on the upside, an art instillation by the Children of the Light. Two artist, one from Amsterdam and one from Finland, I believe designed a contemporary art light installation at a school in Amsterdam, which is a nightclub. So combining art, technology and nightlife”
Mirik Milan and Steve Booker’s hit Amsterdam for ‘a night to remember’