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.