Are sober nights out in London the new frontier?
- "In the dead of night, in spite of the electric lights and the remnants of nightlife, London is an alien city"
Matthew Beaumont, author of ‘Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London’.
It’s very true that, despite the fact that 80 per cent of Europe and North America no longer experiences “real” darkness, London, like any other city, undergoes a transformation at night.
The cover of nightfall has long been associated with nefarious activity, and perhaps rightly so: it’s a time when fewer people are around, a time for intoxication and rule bending. But studies continue to show that young people are drinking less and taking fewer drugs, though this doesn’t mean they’re tucked up in bed instead.
Brands seem more keen than ever to ‘own’, ‘be’ or ‘run’ the night, with this sober twist: exploring the night with clear eyes and minds. Nescafé’s Azera ‘Coffee To Go’ advert follows a nighttime photographer capturing a city, iPhone 7’s ‘ Midnight’ shows nocturnal exploration on a number of levels, and sports brands like adidas are trying to entice consumers into nighttime running events. Even alcohol brands are looking to explore this idea, with Gianluca Di Tondo, senior director of the global Heineken brand introducing their new TVC ‘Moderate Drinkers Wanted’ noting that “Moderation is becoming cool.”
A quick look at YouTube will show a new generation of urban explorers: filmed on phones and Go Pros, they are climbing fences, sneaking about in the dark and dodging security guards. It’s a fascinating habit in cities where more urban areas are becoming privatised, and nocturnal spaces, such as London’s Fabric or Amsterdam’s Trouw, are closing due to licensing pressures.
The sober night presents the perfect space for a new generation to own: one of opportunity and the unknown, with a healthy feeling of transgression and danger, even if most cities are safer than they have ever been.
As (Beaumont notes) the poet Rupert Brooke wrote “Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night.” For a generation that is supposedly obsessed with authenticity, this sounds like an attractive proposition.
Image source: TheRedBulletin
- Article by Stuart Parson