As the sun sets and day turns to night, a special freedom sparks. The night has always been something magical, since fadó when people worshipped the moon, until today where it is a chance to celebrate, to create, and to live.
There is not just a unique economy built around the night, but an individual culture. Artists and publicans, DJs and chefs. Thousands are employed in this sector and tens of thousands more engage and participate in it every night. During an era of burn-out, high cost of living, and social isolation the escape and self-expression offered by the nightlife can be life saving.
However, if we fail to support, plan, and invest in the night-time economy and culture then we should not be surprised when we are not creating social atmospheres in our cities and towns that have a diverse, dynamic, offering for all.
We have all seen the worst excesses after a night out in town. If we were honest with ourselves most of us have contributed to it at one stage or another in our lives.
Shattered glass on the ground, the few public bins we have overflowing with waste everywhere, public drinking and sadly sometimes much worse. Sadly some of our public spaces at night have become far too unloved.
For too long we have not put the infrastructure, supports, and sectoral reforms in place to allow our night-time economy to thrive. Ireland has a unique problem with its nightlife, which is so dependent on alcohol, but it can look to other countries for practical, positive solutions. After the devastating impacts on the night-time economy from Covid-19 this only becomes more urgent.
In one instance Galway has already made a big improvement. The outdoor dining has spurred a wonderful return to craic agus ceol to our streets again, and it has created an atmosphere from Dominick Street to Middle Street that invites you in. Broader questions remain about the use of public space by private enterprises, but as the measures come to a close at the end of October, Insider believes we will notice a hole left by their absence.
The arts and cultural sector has had a rough two years. Artists long for an audience, a crowd, others to share their work with. During lockdown how many hours did each and everyone spend consuming media created artists to keep the days passing by? Our artists kept us sane, and yet, we as a society have never fully offered them the sustainable environments they need to thrive.
And who could forget the humble pub? Insider does not need to elaborate.
A nighttime for everyone
Our night-time culture, in our city, as it stands, could be so much more welcoming and diverse. It largely, but not solely, serves younger people who want to engage in events orientated around drinking. And so they should, but our city is so much more than that. The arts, culture, and entertainment industry has so much more to offer.
Our streets should be alive with people at night. With families, and tourists, students, and grandparents. The night should be for everyone.
The Night-time Economy Taskforce, established by Minister Catherine Martin on July 30 2020, gave a voice for stakeholders from across the night-time culture sector to develop an innovative approach to supporting and developing a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable night-time economy in Ireland.
This was the result of years of advocacy by passionate believers in the potential of our night-time culture and economy. Give Us The Night is one example of campaigners fighting for progressive reforms that will support existing cultural organisations and businesses, and help new potential groups grow.
This month the Taskforce released its recommendations for sectoral reform. It includes licensing reform to make night venues more feasible with later, staggered closing times; vacant buildings will be supported to have a 'meanwhile use' that sees them getting temporary planning permission as culture and art venues; strengthened rules around noise regulation to ensure our cities are inviting places to live as well as enjoy yourself; and targeted strategies to make sure we have night-time venues and events for everyone 18 to 80. Galway is also set to benefit from a new Night-Time Economy Advisor.
These recommendations represent long-standing requests from those who want to brighten up our nightlife. What is required now is vision and leadership on a local level to bring our night-time cultural champions together and create space for everyone in Galway at night.