- 20 May 19
Robbie Kitt outlines how the 'Give Us the Night' group are trying to effect legislative change to bring Irish licensing laws into line with other European countries.
Last year, I wrote a piece for Hot Press talking about the need for the powers that be to change the law and begin to recognise club culture as culture. While our laws still remain the same, the conversation about the cultural importance of music, and other activities that happens at night, has well and truly begun. Since writing that piece, Sunil Sharpe (founder of Give Us the Night) and myself have been in to the Dáil nearly every month to talk to politicians from all the major political parties about this issue. It is incredibly encouraging that we are beginning to see some of our ideas work their way into different parties' manifestos.
Obviously, these promises will only count if they are ultimately realised as progressive legislative change. Until that day comes, we will not stop promoting the commonsense changes to licensing we believe are necessary for the industry to flourish again. There is no doubt that this will take time, and that it will require sustained and consistent pressure. However, establishing the importance of electronic music and club culture now seems to be a much more achievable goal.
In my previous piece, I mentioned how the cultural essence of electronic music is "as pure as anything that happens in the National Concert Hall". A couple of weeks ago, the Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan, hosted a day-long workshop that brought the Give Us The Night team together with the head of the National Concert Hall, as well as the director of the Abbey; representatives from the Arts Council; Culture Night; the Arts Office; and many other stakeholders in the field.
We discussed how we could make better use of our current infrastructure, to incorporate more late night music and cultural events, and to open previously overlooked spaces. In addition, we talked about the desperate need to create viable legislative frameworks for venues, which can allow artists a secure work week-in, week-out. This will allow them to make a valuable economic contribution to society, as well as facilitating their artistic output. We highlighted how far behind Ireland is, when compared to our European counterparts, in recognising and supporting contemporary music and art that happens at night.
In terms of the vibrancy of our club scene, this puts us at an immediate disadvantage. However, it was incredibly heartening to be able to describe the cultural importance of the music I make directly to the guardians of such venerable institutions. It felt like they listened; it felt like progress.
While this type of dialogue is incredibly important, it cannot be stressed enough that without a review of our licensing laws - and the creation of a licence specifically designed for late night venues - it will be incredibly difficult to sustain these type of discussions. Something we also talked about was how cultural spaces and venues can foster meaningful communities. Clubs offer community hubs that give the opportunity for all types of people to come together and connect. The emergence of nights like Club Comfort and Grace over the last year, have provided incredibly important spaces for LGBTQ+ communities in Dublin to be openly expressive, in a truly inclusive setting. It isn't just through club nights that people are brought together.
Dublin Digital Radio is an online station that connects all types of musicians, artists and creative people through their programming, events, gigs and activism. These groups are constantly under threat due to the lack of creative spaces available to them in the city. We cannot afford to lose more of this vibrancy due to inaction. The solutions we are putting forward at Give Us The Night are not radical; they are commonsense and common practice all over the continent. It is time for change.