Amsterdam is famous for its vibrant nightlife. Have you ever wondered why? Meet the new Night Mayor of Amsterdam – Shamiro Van Der Geld. He is making sure we get the best experience of our night out in the city of freedom.
Hi Shamiro! First of all congratulations! Being elected the Night Mayor of Amsterdam seems like a quite a big step in your career. You’ve been working in television, radio, theater and the music industry - was it an easy decision to take part in Night Mayor elections?
Perhaps it was the missing puzzle piece in my career but I didn’t realise it until my friends encouraged me to participate in the elections. Their uncertainty about the future candidates for the Night Mayor position convinced me to give it a try. I had some doubts in the beginning, since it’s a two year run. Eventually, I was moved by the idea of bringing the real problems of Amsterdam nightlife to the table with the more experienced people in this field. I wanted to make my contribution to the nightlife of Amsterdam not only by entertaining people.
It’s not about being the smartest, knowing the most or having the value and giving it to other people - being connected to people and representing their needs and wishes is more important. I believe in people and I hope they believe in me.
What do you think is the key for a genuine connection with people?
First, you should feel the person’s energy, try to reflect it by being a good listener, then start talking. My ability to connect to different people comes from working in social care for the disabled. I learnt to understand them and made our communication a bit more cheerful by joking and playing around. At some point, I felt the need to start my path to self-exploration. Most of the youngsters at 21 are confused about their life goals and their place in this world.
Step by step, I started exploring the entertainment industry. I actually used to be a dancer and a model for some big clothing brands like Foot Locker and Nike. It was a really fun but busy time with around 40 flights a year. I didn’t want to stop my path to self-exploration. I was not fond of the idea to be just another commercial guy. Culture – that’s where I see the real value. If I wouldn’t be a Night Mayor in Amsterdam, my desire to help people would drive me elsewhere. We should learn to connect with each other. That’s what Amsterdam is valuable for, that’s what it’s known for.
Why do you prefer the night over the daytime?
In the night people are free, they make time for each other, they meet and have fun. Going out in daytime is different from the nighttime. The day dictates the limits and the night erases the boundaries. We are much smarter than we were 10-20 years ago and learn to use our time with purpose. We should think about finding better ways to connect with the people around us during the day.
Images courtesy of Shamiro van der Geld
Speaking of bridging the gap between night and day, tell us a bit more about your initiative to bring more 24h permits to Amsterdam.
As a Night Mayor, I stand for a 24h permit, which we are trying to bring to several clubs and some other places. Nowadays I have more responsibilities during the day so I go to bed and wake up quite early, the night for me is associated with the young people. How can we improve their quality of life? Perhaps, by opening 24h working spaces. OBA and Volkshotel are great but there is not enough space for everyone. What is left? Renting a desk or drinking an endless amount coffee in a local cafeteria is too expensive for a student.
Just imagine, if you could come to places like Zoku as a student 24/7 to study, have a night class, to watch a movie or maybe do some yoga in the morning. There are so many ways the city can grow and has to grow in order to stay beautiful and small. So that the people can actually live with each other, instead of just residing as separate society units.
Do you feel a responsibility to educate the youth in finding their life balance by opening 24h facilities? How can we turn the negative energy that comes in the night into something positive?
Yes, I do feel responsible for these young people. The 24h permits are not only focused on fun... We should create more spaces for a talent to grow. I often say: “Your district is your gym, your city center is your showroom”. The city has to grow in the sense of 24h public transport and food market availability as well. We discuss these initiatives with the city mayor. We talk about the life in the streets, the needs of the night clubs, the festivals and bring them to the table.
We think about an empty seat, the person who is not here. The boy or a girl to be able to do what they’re passionate about and be a part of Amsterdam community. We should not allow some big investors to occupy Amsterdam and turn it into an average economical structure like London. It’s very important to keep our voice and meet each other by night or by day.
What is the biggest challenge for you as a freshly elected Night Mayor?
To be able to satisfy the needs of everyone. I’m not talking only about Amsterdam residents but its visitors as well. Every year thousands of people come to Amsterdam from other places in Holland and other parts of the world. This city grows faster than there is enough accommodation and it pushes some people to move elsewhere and sell their houses. Parents make this sacrifice for the sake of paying for their children’s education, it’s the city battle we are forced to be a part of.
The city council highlighted this problem in their agenda for the further discussions. The centre is already locked so there is not so much going to happen there, but if we get more 24h permits for each district in Amsterdam, it can grow from within itself. Nobody wants to live at Dam square or Kalverstraat, there is no value there. Creativity, that’s what people want to embrace and explore.
Knowing your music preferences, should we expect to see more diversity in the electronic music scene in the future?
I think so. Electronic music has been evolving quite a lot and portrayed as an intellectual type. This music genre gives us the possibility to learn more about the street culture. The roots of house and electronic music go deep into the culture of colored people. Unfortunately, the real value of urban music is fading away and turning into a commercial product of big festivals. People get surprised when they see a black person at electronic music event. In their perception, we are more associated with the rap music scene.
How do you plan to change it?
First of all, we should open the doors of urban music to people with different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. This door was opened for me as a vocalist and MC and I got a chance to move into electronic music industry. Back in the day, I found this community really white, it even made me doubt my value there. Eventually those skeptical people with whom I worked with, supported me to become a Night Mayor. My example encouraged them to desire more cultural diversity in the electronic music scene. The diversity is the next level of quality in the music industry. We’ve already reached the ceiling by offering some good quality music played by the best DJ’s, now we want to jump over it.
What steps can the music industry take to become more diverse?
I would like it to be more inclusive. It’s hard to bring any changes to the already existing venues. Starting from scratch gives you more freedom to set up your own standards. For instance, getting on board more female DJ’s or people with different ethnic backgrounds. If you want to attract a more diverse crowd, then start by making changes in your own team.
Don’t get stuck in the system and one way of thinking. Constant adaption ensures progress. When things happen according to the already known scenario, people tend to lose interest. Embracing diversity helps you to see the problem from a different angle and find the solution to it. Don’t stand aside and wait for the big changes to come by themselves, we can make the nightlife in Amsterdam even more attractive by working together on different levels.
It seems like the night life of Amsterdam is in good hands now. We are excited and curious to see how the new initiatives proposed by Shamiro are going to be implemented in practice. We are ready to embrace the diversity of Amsterdam music scene and try out some midnight yoga after a long working day at the co-working space. Don’t be shy and share your ideas of how we can make the night life of Amsterdam better. Just drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Words by Maria Noyarovich
Photography by Richard Rigby
Thank you Maria & Shamiro for this interesting read on Amsterdam nightlife. Thank you Richard for the amazing shots of our Night Mayor! Interested in more stories about city life - Take a look at our print journals. #acitymadebypeople