Plea to protect live music in Birmingham as new Night Time Economy Adviser appointed

A Birmingham music expert has issued a plea to protect live music as restaurateur Alex Claridge from The Wilderness is appointed as a Night Time Economy Advisor

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Award winning restaurateur Alex Claridge has been appointed as the new Night Time Economy Advisor for the West Midlands by Mayor Andy Street.

In his role, Alex, founder of The Wilderness in the Jewellery Quarter, will act as a champion for the region’s pubs, clubs, bars, concert venues, theatres and restaurants - as they look to rebuild following an incredibly difficult few years.

And a leading music expert has urged Alex to place protecting live music venues, clubs, and festivals across the region at the heart of his strategy - stressing that the live music industry in the West Midlands generates around £250m and supports 2400 jobs. Playing live gigs in Birmingham is where the likes of Black Sabbath, UB40 and Duran Duran started out.

The night-time economy is mission critical to the success of the West Midlands, but has faced an onslaught of challenges in recent years. It has been particularly hard hit by the Covid pandemic, the fallout from Brexit, and the implications of the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Alex has pledged to help bring businesses together with wider stakeholders to lobby for, and achieve, investment and action. As part of his role, Alex will also act as a strategic advisor to the Mayor and partner organisations to help the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and local authorities create a thriving and safe night-time economy.

On the needs of the live music sector, Dr Matt Grimes, Course Leader of the Music Business BA (Hons) degree at Birmingham City University, said: “Industry professionals and academics from across the city-region’s music community are delighted that Alex is taking on the challenge of driving forward the unique and vibrant night time arts, entertainment, hospitality, retail and transport offering that Birmingham and the West Midlands are renowned for.

“From the outset, it is of vital importance that the post-holder pays sharp attention to Birmingham’s diverse music communities and cultures in the city, which contribute heavily to the city’s night time economy.

“As the music industries learn to work in a post-Covid world, as venues and festivals manage the rise in energy costs, and the ongoing cost of living crisis takes root amongst many of the city’s workers, music in Birmingham and the West Midlands must be protected both economically and culturally.

Alex Claridge, founder of The Wilderness restaurant in the Jewellery QuarterAlex Claridge, founder of The Wilderness restaurant in the Jewellery Quarter
Alex Claridge, founder of The Wilderness restaurant in the Jewellery Quarter

“With ongoing developments in areas such as Digbeth and the Jewellery Quarter, which have long-standing and internationally recognised music cultures, it’s important that policies and developments do not eradicate or stifle grassroots music, and all primary, secondary and tertiary music businesses such as live venues, clubs and recording/rehearsal studios.

“Music tourism in the West Midlands generates around £250m and supports 2400 jobs (UK Music), with the major share of that in Birmingham, therefore protecting and supporting live music has to be a priority.

“We have seen cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff recognise and embrace the importance of their ‘music city’ status, ensuring music is an integral and profitable part of their local authority’s cultural and economic policy.

“With a rich music heritage, contemporary international artists, a flourishing youth culture, and a central location to work with, Alex Claridge and the West Midlands Combined Authority cannot miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

What else does a Night Time Economy Advisor do?

In his part-time, voluntary, role, Alex will work closely with Lawrence Barton, Birmingham City Council’s night-time champion, who will also now have a closer working relationship with the WMCA and access to its resources as the authority ramps up its support for the hospitality and nightlife sectors as part of its Plan for Growth.

As well as working alongside the WMCA’s Hospitality Skills Taskforce chair Glynn Purnell, and the West Midlands Hospitality and Tourism Advisory Board which he will be co-opted onto, Alex will also have a close relationship with the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) trade body.

The NTIA has already helped establish night-time advisors in London, Greater Manchester, and Bristol, and have been instrumental in working with the WMCA

and the Mayor to get the West Midlands role established.

What has Chef Alex Claridge said about his appointment as Night Time Economy Advisor for the West Midlands in his own words?

On his appointment, Alex said: “For many of us operating across the broad banner of the night-time economy, the tigers have found us. I know many of my peers today are cornered - rising energy prices, staff shortages, strikes, rapidly increasing costs, and the rest of it.

“It takes a certain talent, character, and energy to work in or run the many diverse businesses that make our evenings memorable. I want to harness that creativity and tenacity to fight the good fight together.

“With such talent in our region, it is my good fortune to be asked to serve as the West Midland’s first Night Time Economy Advisor and it is my promise that I will fight alongside my peers to achieve meaningful change.”

What has Mayor Andy Street said about Alex Claridge’s appointment?

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, added: “Hospitality and nightlife are the lifeblood of the West Midlands, not least in our city centres. But there is no denying that in recent years they have been hammered by global trends, and are now facing a worrying future.

“That is why I was so determined to appoint a regional role to corral, lead, and champion the West Midlands’ night-time economy. This sector needs proper support, and our appointment of Alex is just the first step in the WMCA’s renewed commitment to helping the sector thrive again.

“It was an incredibly competitive process, but I’m delighted to have been able to appoint Alex whose credentials are unquestionable and who I know will give his all to this role and more importantly the sector he holds so dear to his heart.”

UB40 (Jimmy Brown second in from the right)UB40 (Jimmy Brown second in from the right)
UB40 (Jimmy Brown second in from the right)

What has the Night Time Industries Association said about Alex Claridge’s appointment?

Michael Kill, the CEO of the NTIA, said: "We welcome the announcement today that the Mayor and the West Midlands Combined Authority will be appointing Alex Claridge as the New Night Time Economy Advisor for the region.

“The NTIA has been an advocate for this role for many years, campaigning for every city and town across the country to have a nightlife champion, in a bid to strengthen the network of representation and promote the important role the industry plays in the recovery of the country and the ongoing economic success of our communities across the UK."

"We are looking forward to continuing our work with West Midlands Combined Authority and Alex, actively helping to support and develop the role within the region, as well as playing a part in promoting and shaping nightlife across the UK.”