If Amy Lamé feels bruised by calls for her to quit her job, she is determined not to show it. The UK’s first “night tsar” has faced brutal criticism ever since she was hired in 2016 to champion London’s night-time culture. Nightclubs and music venue owners have claimed they do not know what she does, while at least one music magazine has asked what is the point of Lamé.
Now, with the capital’s cultural life facing catastrophe, the industry is taking out its frustrations on Lamé. Last week, a petition with several hundred signatories from the nightlife sector was submitted to the mayor of London, demanding she be removed from her role, and that the position be re-evaluated.
The complainants wrote that Lamé’s response to Covid-19 “has been extremely disappointing and has not inspired any confidence in why she receives a salary of £83,169”. The petition claims that she did not understand the infrastructure of the music and arts scene and has failed to adequately advocate for it in a crisis.
“People will have their opinions, but I will be judged by the work that I do,” she says. Speaking to the Observer via video call, with a press officer from City Hall sitting in, Lamé admits the hostility is “unpleasant” but says she is getting on with the job. “Different people have different ideas of [how to do] it, but I’ve got 25 years-plus experience in running my own business, my own nightclub. My background is in advocating for venues: I helped save what is perhaps the most iconic LGBTQ+ venue in the country.”
While working full time in the night tsar role and as a frequent radio host on BBC6 Music, Lamé also presented Duckie, one of London’s most celebrated club nights, which until lockdown had run every week for more than 20 years. In 2018, she helped secure the future of its host venue, Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which has been a centre of gay culture for decades. Now, of course, it is just one of thousands of London institutions battling to survive.
More than a dozen club owners, promoters and nightlife workers who spoke to the Observer believe Lamé has achieved little in the post and has in recent months been absent. The criticism was unanimous, but none would go on the record for fear of damaging already fraught relationships with City Hall.