Players in the Night Time Economy

Players in the Night Time Economy

11 Jan 2016, Posted by kate_mercer in Newport, Night Time Economy, Out & About, Work in progress
G.B. Wales, Newport. Performers take to the stage in Warehouse 54. At the venues Open-Mic night where local musicians get the chance to perform live in front of an audience. This event attracts people from miles around to take part - Nia (on stage) came down from High Cross specifically to take part. © Kate Mercer (2016)

Last week, I spent a fabulous night photographing at Newport’s Warehouse 54 and their open mic night. I’m pleased to say that myself, my fiancé and my friends all had a whale of a time – with performers playing a mix of covers and original written material, it was a privilege to witness so much creativity in the heart of the city. I fully recommend everyone to go down one night to check it out, maybe even take part if it appeals to you! To accompany today’s post, I include some of the images from that night.


G.B. Wales, Newport. A local singer and songwriter Nia performs live at Warehouse 54's Open-Mic Night © Kate Mercer (2016)

G.B. Wales, Newport. A local singer and songwriter Nia performs live at Warehouse 54’s Open-Mic Night © Kate Mercer (2016)

Having not long come out on the other side of the festive season that included Black Friday, Christmas and New Years Eve, the streets of Newport were a stark contrast to the abundance of footfall in the city centre over the previous 2 weeks. The city’s pubs and clubs were comparatively deserted. (If there was a Welsh equivalent of tumbleweed, there would have been some, perhaps with our ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ playing in the background too). This potentially means 3 things; that people are skint after Christmas, settling back again into work and won’t be out until next payday; that anyone out will tend to gravitate to where there is the biggest amount of people; and that people therefore more likely will go out to attend specific events.


G.B. Wales, Newport. Jamee Summers and Tobias Roberston at Warehouse 54's Open-Mic Night. © Kate Mercer (2016)

G.B. Wales, Newport. Jamee Summers and Tobias Roberston at Warehouse 54’s Open-Mic Night. © Kate Mercer (2016)

It amused me that the next day, whilst suffering a mild hangover, a column / opinion piece in the Guardian newspaper popped up entitled, ‘We’re being told to drink less alcohol – have you ever tried to give up?’. To their credit, I thought the article covered different viewpoints on the matter very well – written from the starting point of a ‘Dry January’, it examined the respondents relationships with alcohol; how much they drank, when they drank and ultimately why. It thought it was a very mindful piece (the comments section of course attracting it’s usual mix of witty critique, reader insight and outright trolling). Ultimately, perhaps as a direct result of this impending collaboration with S.J. Fowler on The Night Time Economy, it made me think once again about Newport’s relationship with alcohol.

I do not wish to comment on other people’s choices around alcohol in this post; we all have the right to do as we please so long as, in my opinion, we are not harmful to others, and are willing to accept responsibility and accountability for the consequences of our own actions. What does intrigue me is this notion of ‘Dry January’ – where, for whatever motivation you have, you abstain from alcohol for the whole month of January. The charity behind it, Alcohol Concern, are the same charity behind Alcohol Awareness Week which runs in November, which tackles the idea of harmful social drinking behaviour in the UK with proven success*. I support campaigns like this wholeheartedly if it’s done through someone’s own choice and for positive reasons. One of the most interesting conclusions the researchers drew from their research was that it was the act of committing to the campaign that was most important, regardless of the individuals success at completing the whole month alcohol-free, that ultimately changed their behaviour and confidence towards healthier drinking. If you are interested in finding out more about ‘Dry January’, click here.

Good luck to you if you are taking part in ‘Dry January’ this year. You’re on Day 11 – you’re doing great! By the end of it, I hope you’re really proud of what you will have achieved, whatever reason your doing it for – well done!


G.B. Wales, Newport. Damien Harvey performs at Warehouse 54's Open-Mic Night. © Kate Mercer 2016.

G.B. Wales, Newport. Damien Harvey performs at Warehouse 54’s Open-Mic Night. © Kate Mercer 2016.

This notion of harmful social drinking behaviour is something we’re all familiar with as a concept, and sadly is synonymous with The Nighttime Economy – weekend warriors, dancing queens, f*cking and fighting through their Friday and Saturday nights, escaping reality, waiting for another working week to begin. In recent weeks, an image by freelance news photographer Joel Goodman, went viral of New Year’s Eve gone awry in Manchester. More locally, Maciej Dakowicz’ series ‘Cardiff After Dark’ (2005-2011) produced some phenomenal images of revellers on St Mary Street in Cardiff. And, even closer to home, that superficial shite that was ‘Bouncers’… Eurgh! It’s important to highlight that these images stand out because of their exceptional content – shot over days, weeks, even months, they are the edit of many remarkable moments, from people who were in a specific place at a specific time.


G.B. Wales, Newport. Jamee Summers performs live at Warehouse 54's Open-Mic Night. © Kate Mercer (2016)

G.B. Wales, Newport. Jamee Summers performs live at Warehouse 54’s Open-Mic Night. © Kate Mercer (2016)

To be honest, I’m bored with it. I’m bored with this notion that Newport (like so many other towns and cities across the UK) is a violent, alcohol fuelled, distilled melting pot of sin and disorder. I worked for some time as a venue manager in the city, and saw and felt the effects of harmful drinking behaviour first hand. But I’ve also seen the best of Newport first hand; the celebrations, the support, the friendships, the closeness of it’s community… sometimes washed down with alcohol, but let’s be fair, not all the time. There is so much more to The Nighttime Economy in Newport than people give it credit for, and so much work put in by business, bar workers, door staff and local agencies to make it a safe and pleasurable environment for everyone. The city is far more intricately faceted than that, and I look forward to exploring this photographically in the future.


G.B. Wales, Newport. Musicians pack away their instruments on stage after performing live at Warehouse 54's Open-Mic night. © Kate Mercer (2016).

G.B. Wales, Newport. Musicians pack away their instruments on stage after performing live at Warehouse 54’s Open-Mic night. © Kate Mercer (2016).

So to the musicians, the artists, the chefs, the students, the bar workers, the landlords, the patrons, the door staff, the waitresses, the tech guys, the sound guys, the Djs, the photographers, the singers and many others more – you are all important players in Newport’s Night Time Economy. Thank you for doing what you do! These are the people I think of in the community where I live, many of whom are friends working in The Nighttime Economy.

Hope you enjoy the photos – and a happy new year everyone!

K x

NB: This post references research published by academic staff at University of Sheffield which can be found here. Please follow the link to their website to find out more about their research and findings as referenced by Alcohol Concern in the linked article.

  • Abe

    Nice piece and great photos too.
    To me, The acoustic night at Warehouse 54 is a great example of a good night in Newport. Although held on a Monday, there is always a good, numerous, articulate and friendly crowd. The atmosphere is always warm, and there is a real mutual appreciation between the audience and the performers, and everyone is approachable. It’s like the pressure normally associated with the weekend habits of drink, shout, dance till you drop has been lifted. There is the freedom to enjoy yourself, rather than an enforced compulsion to get wasted because you’ve worked hard all week.

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