Why is nightlife unfairly associated with violence?

Earlier this week, we typed ‘nightclub news’ into Google to get the latest on the night time leisure industry in the UK. The top 10,20,30 results were dominated with stories of stabbings outside an Oxford Street nightclub.

Not one single positive story about all the good nightclubs do for the economy and people’s wellbeing.

In fact, it’s the same thing every single week. Every Monday we do the search, and every Monday the results are all about fights, stabbings, bouncer misconduct etc.

We know that the percentage of people involved in violence on nights out is minuscule. So why do these stories lead the conversation?

And the worst part is that those with the power to put pressure on the industry accept this narrative as a given. The #SaveHackney campaign, for instance, started in direct response to the misconception by Hackney Council that nightlife’s only output was anti-social.

Just a few days ago, Manchester Night Tsar, Sacha Lord, Made this great point on Twitter:

A fight happens at a racecourse or football game and it’s a slap on the wrist for the people involved. Maybe a prison sentence depending on the severity of the incident.

But that same fight occurs at a nightclub, and questions are asked about the venue’s ability to keep people safe.

Nightlife definitely has a PR problem on its hands. A PR problem that, with economic pressure and changing consumer habits, it could really do without.

So why has this happened?

There’s three major reasons why nightlife has this unfair association.

The first is that sex and violence sells. And there’s not much we can do about that. If a journalist has 1000 stories about people having a great time on her desk, and one about a stabbing, she will go with the latter. That’s just business.

But the second and third reasons are much more controllable.

The first is that we’re not doing enough as an industry to change the narrative. But this is getting better; Sacha Lord’s appointment as Manchester Tsar is a good example of that. He has a great position now to champion nightlife and the benefits it delivers.

But we can do more. And that’s where reason three comes in. Because at the moment, we’re not helping ourselves.

Back to that weekly search we do on google for ‘nightclub news’ and too often the stories we find are about bouncers not acting professionally, nightclubs not working effectively with police, violence that could have been prevented with better crowd control etc.

We’ve very recently written about the diversity issue in night life, some of which is caused by door polices turning people away based on their gender or in one case, for looking ‘too urban’.

Controlling the narrative is a lot like risk management (which, as one of the night time leisure industry’s leading insurance brokers, we know a thing or two about). You can’t control every single story, just like you can’t prevent every single claim.

But you can control the controllables. In risk management, you’d complete a survey of all your risks and put controls in place to ensure that the risk was minimised.

In the context of this article, your risks or controllables are the policies you put in place to ensure that negative stories aren’t available. That could mean increasing security presence, working on your ‘brand identity’ and making sure your staff buy in, or, or the flip side, doing more proactive good work in the community to push the narrative in a different direction.

As an industry, we can’t just assume that everyone will read through the untruths and see the benefit we deliver for the whole country. We have to make sure the right story is being told.

You can’t avoid every negative story, just like you can’t avoid every claim. But you can put measures in place to make sure that the unfair association with violence doesn’t get any fuel.