Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Economy at Night

"The night-time economy can bring many benefits to an area, but how can councils ensure that it's properly managed? Get it right, and the night-time economy can boost your financial prospects locally, enhance the sense of community, in your area and also improve local services during the day. But if councils get it wrong, a community can be plagued by antisocial behaviour and alcohol-fueled violence."

"The panel learned that the town centre was seen, by some influential key players, as the ‘engine room of the local economy’ and the future economic success of Middlesbrough is tied up with the performance of the town centre. Developing a more diverse evening economy can bring many opportunities and economic success to the town in terms of job creation, attracting businesses and people and altering the image of the town."

By the cashpoint, half past 1.  Idling about waiting for friends to restock on money so we can go back into the club and carry on drinking. Lad slumped at a distance from the cashpoint: head lolling about, clumsily try to manipulate a smartphone. We eye him and walk on by; offer sage advice, for example “You wanna watch that mate, someone’ll have it off yeh” or the sturdy, “Are yeh alright?”  Can’t quite remember what I said but it might have been “You want to get yourself a taxi home.” Think later that I should have maybe done something more for him, helped out; try and fight the idea it’s his own stupid fault for getting in a state. He isn’t there when we roll out a few hours later into the pizza shop; hopefully he didn’t come to any harm. Wonder where his friends were.

Second floor near the bar; guy in a dark coat appears. Starts talking to me (his accent Eastern European?) quite friendly-like: he’s clearly fucked. You can see from his face the links between body and brain have been disjointed by intoxication; seen this sort in here before and don’t like it. Friends return and we proceed towards the ground floor to meet up with others, dark coat following. He grabs one of my friends by the throat and holds him against the wall at the top of the stairs; we don’t make a move, appreciating the precarious situation. Dark coat turns to me and inquires of my friend whose throat he’s got his fingers wrapped around: “Do you know him”. Indeed I do. He releases him and wanders off after giving me a friendly ‘cya around’ sort of gesture. Friend who’d been restrained turns to me and says “Who the fuck was he, did you know him?” No, but I did feel worried for him: if he’d tried that when the friend we were going to meet on the ground floor was about, the one who’s been drinking since about 4, he’d have ended up at the bottom of those stairs without a doubt.

Outside, the smoking area. A friend has been chatting to a girl we’ve met: plenty of people floating about, smokers, black-coated bouncers, hi-visibility coppers in the distance. Guy turns up amongst the four of us: “That’s my girlfriend.” Friend who was walking to her replies “Alright then.” Guy (never do find out if he is her boyfriend, the girl’s edgy and starring with quite appropriate disapproval) acts quite genially but in no certain terms offers to fight all three of us: “Bring your two friends”, he says to my friend, “they don’t mean anything to me.” We’re frankly stunned, the guy’s fairly out-of-shape looking, and obviously the worse for drink but even still you’d have to be a lot more drunk than this to embark on something as plainly idiotic as this. Eventually the situation is defused in the way these things are and we drift off. See the girl again that night on her own: understandable.

Very late in the night/early in the morning. Cooling towers, chemical works, orange flaring from towards Dormanstown. Too tired to speak or say anything or look at anyone. The taxi skirts its way through what’s left of the little Hercules of British industry in the sad pre-dawn as we are driven ages for no reason to drive to an outer suburb to drop a friend off. It’s only when I’m this tired and this drunk that I start thinking about inanities: my dad’s stories about working at a steel foundry and a warehouse amongst the stacks in the now carved-out and ‘redeveloped’ docklands; Ridley Scott’s memories of the industrial skyline and its impact on the imagery of Blade Runner; the permanent orange glow just beyond the Eston hills.

There’s still industry here but it’s no more convincing than when the Deputy Prime Minister visits a shop floor somewhere: this is what Britain still does the news and the politicians are telling you, it’s all about the classics, the cars and airplane engines and so on. What they would find it difficult to say is that the real action is behind me in the town centre: young men and women leaning against walls with tears in their eyes; a broken bottle arcing down a face leaving red memories and lost sight; three police kicking a man in the gutter and hefting him into the back of the van with the rest. A utopian idea in the 1990s about clubs suggested they could become zones of alternative reality, fuelled on E-nergy and rave optimism/hedonism. Dream on.


Paul Hebron said...

Checked this and realized I'd missed out the songs. Small mercies you might be thinking in regards to the Arctic Monkeys songs, but they're not far removed from the Specials in their confusion/mistrust towards the night-time economy (the Arctic Monkeys' first album started life as a concept album about clubbing).

The Specials song are very good. Bleak, bleary, and confused, which is interesting when they're so forthright about what they like/don't like on stuff like 'Rat Race' or 'Too Much Too Young'.

Julian Bond said...

Much as I love the 3 blogs, I'm getting increasingly uncomfortable that the post-millenium is mashed in with the 90s. Has nothing really happened since 2000? Does the oughties still not have any over-riding and understandable story arc of its own?

William said...

"Long 90s" innit?

Paul Hebron said...

Difficult to say what the story arc of the 2000s is because the 2000s seem to be taking forever to turn into something new. What you could say is that the 2000s are post-apocalyptic: how do people cope after the end of history? I’ve not read Fukuyama, or nearly enough history/politics/theory, but I’m confident enough from my own experience to say that in the USA, UK, and to a lesser extent Europe, the struggle against the forces that coalesced in the 70s, established themselves in the 80s, and mopped up in the 90s, is over in a meaningful sense. How people have coped is retromania (this is why the 90s revival is struggling to ignite as it was too near the end, or was already slightly after the end); technology fetishism (shiny gadgets and social networks as solve for knowing that any possibilities had been shut down); geekism (dull, tensionless pop culture as a big sign pointing away from the problem, with a warm embrace as potent as heroin, mostly shutting down engagement with the wider world, or stupidity when it does; think student protestors telling Laurie Penny that Harry Potter and Dumbledore wouldn’t have stood for this); and zombie politics (The right who act like there are still socialists at the gates; the left who act like they’ve already won and nobody’s heard about it yet: both sides who actually think the “establishment”, as embodied by John Cleese’s city banker on Monty Python is still a threat).

I can only really talk about Britain as I know it quite well, and like most people of my generation are totally familiar with the USA. This analysis works for Britain and the USA, less so or not at all for Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.

Paul Hebron said...

For the record my hazy memories of the 90s are of Blair getting in (everyone appeared to be very happy about it), Diana dying (everyone appeared to be very sad about it), the millennium (there were a lot of fireworks and a rubbish dome, and a rubbish bridge), and the natural cut-off point of 9/11 (an apocalyptic sense of dread and terror that I think will be impossible to express to anyone who didn’t experience it on 24 hour news), which in a way feels oddly superfluous; if 9/11 hadn’t happened it’s hard to shake the feeling there wouldn’t be much difference, in Britain at least (even Islamophobia was on its way in the 90s).

carl said...

Can i agree with you both? when we started off the blogs we had a separate one for the 00s but i thought at that point it might just be too much/we might be spreading ourselves too thin etc...

also yeah it is the long 90s, but also i guess we started these blogs in 2010 and it was a bit too close, whereas now we have a bit of distance on the decade and maybe it can start to separate out a bit..

in other words maybe we should do another blog on the noughties partly precisely to think about its difference from the nineties ( i am aware these periodizations are problematic etc)..

Paul Hebron said...

I'd be up for it.