London’s experimental plan to entice people out after dark

London is encouraging residents and visitors to stay out after dark under the new Night Time Enterprise Zone project, which aims to make the capital a 24-hour global city.

Friends walking down city street together at night
London has a plan to encourage people to stay out and about after 6pm ©Caiaimage/Tom Merton via Getty

Even though it's one of the biggest and buzziest cities in the world with an incredibly eclectic youth culture, London can sometimes (not always) be pretty quiet after dark. Unless you have a solid plan in order, like say an invite to an event, tickets to a club or know someone who knows someone who's hosting a late-night house party with an open-door policy, finding something to do after-hours can be tricky. Rarely does 'winging it' work, especially on a weeknight.

But that could change under a new plan devised by London mayor Sadiq Khan and his nighttime cohort, Amy Lamé, the city's night czar. In response to a recommendation from the Night Time Commission (which found that 92% of English councils believe that spearheading the night-time economy is key to preventing the decline of the high street) they've launched the Night Time Enterprise Zone: a pilot project to boost the city's creativity and commerce after dark.

Group of young people having a party, telling jokes, having a good time, celebrating, in a private home
London house parties ©Henrik Sorensen/Getty

Walthamstow High Street (home to what is said to be the longest daily outdoor market in Europe) in Waltham Forest was selected as the first zone in the pilot. Under the scheme, the northeast London borough is introducing proposals to encourage people to stay out late. They include offering entrepreneurs low-cost and flexible business spaces to hire in the evenings and establishing a new fund to help businesses and community groups host events after 6pm.

By bringing the community together in this way to support local ideas and small businesses, the borough could work almost as well at night as it does in the daytime. Indeed there are even plans to run a "shop local late' campaign and a "reclaim your high street event" with activities for all ages. 

Night Czar, Amy Lamé, pictured with the leader of Waltham Forest Council, Clare Coghill
Night czar, Amy Lamé, and leader of Waltham Forest Council, Clare Coghill ©Mayor of London

"Our capital is thriving at night, with two-thirds of Londoners regularly active and 1.6 million working between 6pm-6am,: said night czar, Amy Lamé. "There is huge potential for our high streets if we can help them extend what’s on offer." The pilot zone, which is running from now until January 2020, will receive £75,000 funding from City Hall and the results will "help shape future plans across the city."

The scheme comes two years after Mayor Khan announced his vision to improve life in the city after dark. "We have stiff competition from other world cities like Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo and New York," he said at the time, "and I want to make sure London is on the front foot by planning for life at night in the same way the city does for the day."

Long exposure of pedestrians and traffic outside Piccadilly Circus tube station in London,
London's Night Tube has become a more successful venture than predicted ©N-Photo Magazine via Getty

Since then the Night Tube and Night Overground have launched and become more successful than predicted. The mayor has also introduced a Night Time Borough Champions Network to "support the development of local visions for the night time economy" and established the Women's Night Safety Charter to make London a city where all women feel safe at night.