Amsterdam’s Rebellious Mayor of the Night
‘Child of the Night’
My story is the same as most young creatives who operate in the cover of night. Being part of the night you are given a form of freedom that doesn’t exist in the daytime. You are free to do whatever it is you feel like doing and somehow the impossible suddenly becomes possible. And with that thought I started organizing parties with my brother in 2001, simply because we had fun doing it. After a while I discovered that I had a real talent for it. By doing more and more with those talents they became even more developed. Like most people in the event scene and dance industry, I didn’t go to school to learn about ‘how to organize a party’. I just did what I loved, trusted in my talents and picked up the rest of necessary skills along the way. Though I have to admit, going for my Bachelor’s degree in Communication did help me out a lot in writing articles and such. And finally after a couple of years I got picked up and added to the company ‘Meubel Stukken’ – owned by well-known DJ and party-organizer Joost van Bellen – who I still have the honor of working with to this day. Now years later I have been fortunate enough to organize festivals and parties like ‘Valtifest’, ‘Manifesto’ and ‘Rauw’ as well as fashion shows for Diesel together with VICE MEDIA and being part of the opening-, closing- and off schedule event of Amsterdam’s Fashion Week.
‘Running for Night Mayor’
For years I’ve had the experience of submitting license applications for varying events, and I noticed that something always went wrong somehow. It often resulted in all cooperating parties having to work really hard to the very last second in order to get their licenses in the nick of time. I knew there had to be a way to change this recurring pattern. Then I had heard about the position of Night Mayor (Nightlife Ambassador) through Joost, who in 2003 was part of the ‘Nightwatch’ – a group of people who had a similar function as the Night Mayor does now. After which I worked with other Nightlife Ambassadors, like the ladies of ‘Nuit Blanche’. My predecessor, DJ Isis van der Wel, took things another level and actually started getting through to the city officials that Night Mayors were serious sparring partners in their field of work. It is then that I saw the massive potential that being a Night Mayor had and how it could be put to use to benefit all. After being elected in 2012 I got straight to work introducing the new 24-hour license for clubs, bars and events in 2013. That was a massive moment in time for Amsterdam. In 2014 the position of Night Mayor went from being an ‘honorary title’ to that of an official foundation. My team and I put all vital information necessary to professionalize the title of Night Mayor on paper. This way I can accomplish my goal of making a structurally viable contribution to the nightlife. The foundation’s continuity and professionalism are now part of my legacy.
City officials are now starting to see that the nightlife is way more than the ‘unwanted brother’ they always thought it was. The revenue of the Dutch dance industry in 2013 was 600 million Euros. For a country with only 16 million people, that is a lot! Comparing that to great countries like Brazil, America and the UK, we are talking about a very substantial amount that could further stimulate the economy. For that reason I’ve been invited to places like São Paulo, Rio, Berlin, Cologne, Tokyo, Brasil and Paris to speak about the benefits of having a Night Mayor being the mediator between city officials and nightlife entrepreneurs. By looking at Amsterdam’s nightlife and seeing how it has flourished in the last couple of years, other countries now understand how vital having a position of Night Mayor has become. For even though the cities are different, the needs of people and the establishments are the same everywhere. And for that reason it is the Night Mayor’s mission to seek out discussions, spot trends, make sure that it becomes part of the political agenda and making beneficial, visible and long-lasting changes.
‘Ups and Downs’
The greatest part of being a Night Mayor to me is that Amsterdam is taking such massive leaps forward. Other countries are taking notice that what we are doing is innovative and substantial. I am very proud to be of added value to the city.
Another great thing about doing this is the fact that I get to experience so many different situations and meet so many different people. Never has there been a Night Mayor to cross borders to visit Asia and South America before. It has taught me a lot just by interacting with new cultures and by looking at things through other people’s perspectives. Though São Paulo really left an impact on me, I am amazed by Tokyo – specifically Roppongi Hills. A prime example of a city within a city, where offices, apartments, shops, restaurants, a museum of contemporary art and nightlife are all put together in one place. It is so difficult to explain its greatness, for you will not be able to understand it until you’ve actually seen it with your own eyes.
The downside of being a Night Mayor is that you have to constantly prove yourself. My team and I are still working hard on achieving our goal of becoming the first place city officials, media and clubs go to for our knowledge-through-experience and independent and unbiased advice. Things are well on their way, but we can’t rest on our laurels yet.
For instance – the city of Amsterdam has 130 festivals with more than 2,000 visitors each. It’s understandable that clubs around those times can be pretty empty. People can only spend their hard-earned money once. From our experience we know that the solution isn’t to ban all festivals, but to make the nightlife more appealing for the masses. The festivals and clubs need each other, for the night is where you learn to develop your talents and the festivals are where you get to celebrate what you’ve learned.
‘Rebel in a Suit’
My rebellious nature truly comes from being born into the nightlife – as both a person and as an entrepreneur. It has taught me how to deal with diversity, as well as intolerance. It has given me a form of perseverance and fearlessness enabling me to push through and address tough subjects. People I work with know that when I get behind something, movement follows. I keep my word and always come through with what I’ve promised. I see things rationally. It’s part of being a professional. And that is where the suit comes in.
As Night Mayor I also have connections with the real mayor. If I were to walk into his office with sunglasses on and a backwards cap, spewing that everything is wrong and needs to be changed, I don’t believe that he would take me seriously. You have to learn to speak people’s language or else you won’t be able to bring about change. Though I stick up for what I believe in, I have learned to adapt to the environment I’m in by understanding the world that they’re in. That’s the only way of truly connecting with people. For that reason we always say: ‘by having a dialogue, we’re changing the(rules of the) game.’
All of these qualities have always been inside of me. But by being a child of the night all of them have come together in creating this ‘Rebel in a Suit’.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Ferrie by Studio Popgun
David Osatohannwen Okoro