26 years on: International Club Health conference returns to Liverpool focused on improving nightlife safety

The 12th International Club Health Conference Liverpool

More than 150 professionals will descend on the city this week (1st-3rd November) for a major global conference focused on building safer, stronger, more vibrant night time economies.

  • 150 delegates from around the world set to visit city for three-day conference at The Spine.
  • Global event returns to the city for the first time since it was launched at Cream nightclub in 1997.
  • 14 invited speakers and 75 presentations will focus on what more can be done to build safer, stronger, more vibrant night time economies with key themes including diversity and inclusion, alcohol and other drug misuse, violence, and digital technology.

The International Club Health Conference is returning to Liverpool 26 years after the very first event was held at the world-famous Cream nightclub, focused on using a public health approach to tackling nightlife issues including licensing, transport, violence, alcohol and other drugs.

This pioneering event brought the nightlife agenda into focus and since then events have been held bi-annually across Europe and in Australia and America and the agenda has been widened out to cover wide-ranging issues including sexual health, violence and policing the night time economy.

This year’s event is also shining a spotlight on equality, diversity and inclusion and will feature sessions focused on safe spaces for LGBTQ+ communities, black lives in music and creating a nightlife that is friendly for those with neurodiverse conditions.

The conference, which has been organised by Merseyside’s Violence Reduction Partnership (MVRP) and Liverpool John Moores University, will be opened by Merseyside’s Police Commissioner, Emily Spurrell, and Liverpool City Council’s Director of Public Health, Professor Matt Ashton.

Keynote speakers at the event include Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, a consultant in addiction psychiatry who founded the Club Drug Clinic, the UK’s largest service for people using ‘club drugs’ and who now chairs the Government’s advisory agency on drugs, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

Also among the 14 speakers are Bristol’s first Night Time Economy Advisor, Carly Heath, Merseyside Police’s Chief Constable Serena Kennedy and LCR Pride’s CEO and Co-Founder Andi Herring, who will talk about the You’re Safe Here scheme funded by the Police Commissioner. The event will also feature 15 parallel ‘in conversation’ sessions involving more than 75 speakers on wide-ranging themes including festivals, drug testing, addiction, spiking, sexual violence, the impact of Covid and hotspot policing.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said: “Liverpool is rightly famous for its brilliant nightlife and is often voted the best place for a night out in the UK, so I am delighted to welcome professionals from across the globe to our city for the 12 International Club Health Conference.

“Our region pioneered this work, hosting the very first Club Health Conference back in 1997, so it’s fantastic to see Liverpool once again at the forefront of this work.

“A lot has changed in the past 26 years, meaning the approach and priorities we must take has had to develop and expand to keep pace with our ever-evolving nightlife. This three-day event is a fantastic opportunity to discuss how we can work together and share best practice to make all our night time economies even safer, stronger, and more vibrant.”

MVRP’s Public Health Lead Andrew Bennett was instrumental in bringing the first Club Health to Liverpool back in 1997 and has been involved ever since.

He said: “Club Health has been around the globe and expanded significantly since we first launched it in Liverpool’s world-famous Cream nightclub back in 1997. The nightlife environment has changed dramatically too and I’m proud that this year’s event, back in its home city, has a wider remit than ever, with a real focus on how we can make our night time economies safer and more equitable for all our communities.

“Unfortunately, our last conference planned in Montreal two years ago had to be cancelled due to Covid, so this event is more important than ever – enabling public health professionals to come together for the first time in four years to share learning and discuss how we can work in partnership to promote the development of healthy night time environments in all our cities and countries.”

Prof Zara Quigg, Professor of Behavioural Epidemiology at Liverpool John Moores University has been part of the International Club Health movement and a nightlife researcher for 20 years.

She said: “Internationally, creating safer and healthy nightlife settings for all to enjoy is a key priority across governments and communities. Nightlife is an environment in which pleasure, intoxication, self-expression and group relationships co-exist. For many, nightlife is a safe environment and night-time economies provide important cultural, social and economic investment for towns and cities. However, the environment itself and some of the behaviours and social norms within, can increase risk of harm.

“Various policies, interventions and community initiatives are making great strides in preventing some of these harms however, and this conference will showcase many examples that adopt a public health approach. It also provides a unique opportunity for communities to come together to address the evolving challenges of nightlife and build advocacy for promoting sustainable and healthy nightlife spaces that are inclusive to all.”

Matt Ashton, Liverpool’s Director of Public Health, said: “It’s fantastic to welcome the Club Health conference back to the city, where it all began in 1997.

“A vibrant night-time economy brings with it many benefits, especially for local businesses enjoying  considerable visitor spend and it is a significant employer of people in Liverpool.

“However, like any city, we face challenges, including poor health outcomes. And as we all know, our challenges aren’t just about where you live; they’re about how you live and the context in which you live.

“It is therefore incredibly important that key partners work closely together to ensure there is a healthy approach to maintaining a night-time economy in which people feel safe and able to relax. Liverpool already does this very well which is one of the reasons why it has Purple Flag status and is seen as an exemplar city across the UK, and we are determined to build on this approach further.”

Chief Constable of Merseyside Police Serena Kennedy said: “There is simply no place for hate in our city and the You’re Safe Here scheme is just one of the ways we are trying to create a safer and more inclusive community.

“Since You’re Safe Here was launched in 2021, it has been so encouraging to see the large range of venues that have voluntarily signed up. It really demonstrates the shared enthusiasm for making sure visitors safely enjoy the vibrant nightlife that the city centre has to offer.

“The nightlife that Liverpool has to offer is fantastic and we want those who live, work and visit our city to embrace all of the great facilities on offer.

“What we don’t want is for people to get involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour, which we will not tolerate. Please drink responsibly and if you choose to enjoy our nightlife, remember to be respectful of others, stay safe and make your night out one to remember for all the right reasons.”

The full programme of speakers and sessions for the 12th Club Health Conference is available here: https://www.theclubhealthconference.com/