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Amsterdam Dance Event: the fun must go on

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Amsterdam Dance Event: the fun must go on

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Noisiness, rowdiness and logistical difficulties are some problems that typically challenge and restrain a city’s night life. But these things won’t stop Amsterdam from having fun, as it prepares to host of the 2017 edition of the Amsterdam Dance Event – one of the world’s largest parties.

Mirik Milan does not shrug off safety and logistical concerns. He simply does not see them as an obstacle to his vision: an expansive, dynamic night life; free from opening hour regulations and costly venue restrictions. In 2014, he worked with the Amsterdam Dance Event to negotiate the extension of opening hours for all 150 venues taking part in the festival, “An interesting thing came out of the data. The extended opening hours were no busier for paramedics or police than a regular Saturday night” he says. “It proves that when people are coming for an event, they are more likely to behave than people who are just coming to town to use the city as a declaration of their stag or hen party”

Noise control, intoxicated rowdiness, and residential concerns have long proved to be relentless challenges to the nightlife industry, pitting city authorities against the professionals who operate after hours. As a result, cities across Europe have lost key venues, have found their night culture diminished, with creative industries suffering. This struggle between a vibrant nightlife and government legislation is where Milan comes in: a negotiator; not quite a politician, but not strictly a night time official either.

Since 2012, Milan has been Amsterdam’s Night Mayor, Nachtburgemeester, a non-for-profit organisation funded by both the city authorities and the night time economy. A self-proclaimed ‘Rebel in a Suit’, Milan is a key figure in ensuring the collaboration between city officials and the night time sector. In recent years, he’s assumed a celebrity-like status as a leading advisor on nocturnal economy, whose role now has expanded to evangelising on nightlife policy around the world as much as it is ensuring a thriving night culture at home.

He’s now working with both Amsterdam city council and the organisers of Amsterdam Dance Event, as they prepare for one of the world’s largest and most important night-based festivals. What began as one-night music showcase between three of Amsterdam’s prominent venues in 1995, the ADE has expanded to a five-day conference and party which takes place across the Dutch capital, attracting 5000 professionals, 90,000 foreign visitors with a total of 375,000 attendees, “My role is to be the connector” says Milan, “I advise the city on everything within the safety issues region and advise on the clubs on the rules to make everything flow smoother.”

The types of policies he has overseen demand that clubs allocate an employee on the street at all times during the event, ensuring the safe movement of crowds when entering and exiting the clubs. It also takes a more liberal and practical approach on controlling drug use; while harder drugs like ecstasy remain prohibited, they are anticipated, “During ADE, and also the rest of the year, when you host an electronic music event you always need to have specialised paramedics, you need to control room temperature, you need to have chill out spaces so people can relax” explains Milan. “The Dutch have an open, pragmatic view on these things, it’s not a ‘for’ or ‘against’ debate. The government is in control and in the driving seat when it comes to these kinds of issues.”

The Night Mayor is a collaborative role – not just within Amsterdam – but on a global platform. Milan has worked with London mayor Sadiq Khan on the appointment of Amy Lamé, London’s Night Czar, and he has travelled to cities such as Berlin to learn how to prevent illegal raves by offering amateur DJs cheaper, regulated space to perform. Milan’s influence also extends outside Europe; he is working with New York and Sydney, both cities whose night culture has been drastically stinted at the hands of strict legal measurements against clubs and venues. At the ADE, he will be curating an international panel, discussing how social and political differences determine how cities can respectively approach and solve their night-related issues.

“I really think nightlife has an opportunity to create more culturally diverse and socially inclusive cities” says Milan. “Politicians need to see this value and support it. Of course, you have to clamp down to the down sides, but you also really need to elevate the up sides.”

The Amsterdam Dance Event takes place October 18-22.

By Charis McGowan