By Angela Green: Night Time Economy Advisor appointed for West Midlands.
Restaurateur Alex Claridge has been appointed by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street as the West Midland’s new Night Time Economy Advisor.
In this role, Claridge will be the champion of the region’s pubs, clubs, bars, concert venues, theatres, and restaurants as they look to rebuild following an incredibly difficult few years.
The night-time economy is critical to the success of the West Midlands but has faced an onslaught of challenges in recent years, having been particularly hard hit by the Covid pandemic, the fallout from Brexit, and the implications of the ongoing cost of living crisis.
Claridge is tasked with helping bring businesses together with wider stakeholders to lobby for, and achieve, investment and action.
As part of his role, he will act as a strategic advisor to the Mayor and partner organisations to help the West Midlands Combined Authority and individual local authorities create a thriving and safe night-time economy.
Born and raised in the West Midlands, Claridge has been part of the Birmingham hospitality scene for over a decade and is currently the chef-patron of The Wilderness restaurant. He has long been a vocal advocate for the sector, spearheading campaigns for sector support throughout the Covid pandemic and beyond, alongside working as a consultant for numerous local hospitality businesses and projects.
Of his appointment, Claridge said: “It is a privilege to offer my time and energy to the city and wider region that has been so very kind to me over the years. Our region would be a very dull place without the continued existence and evolution of the many spaces and places that animate our evenings.
“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.”
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.”
In his part-time, voluntary, role, the new Night Time Economy Advisor will work closely with Lawrence Barton, Birmingham City Council’s night-time champion, who will also now have a closer working relationship with the West Midlands Combined Authority 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, Claridge will need to develop a close relationship with the Night Time Industries Association trade body. The NTIA has already helped establish night-time advisors in London, Greater Manchester, and Bristol.
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.”