Merlijn Poolman has been a familiar face on Groningen’s nightlife scene for more than a decade. He ran the popular Subsonic club on the Grote Markt for years, and ran for the position of night mayor three times before finally winning the title in 2018.
Groningen has one of the longest traditions of night mayors in the entire world: the very first person to hold the position was Henk Leupen in the 1980s, and it became an elected job starting in 2011. The winner serves a two-year term. Amsterdam has introduced the position in recent years, and the concept is gaining traction across Europe and some large American cities.
Poolman considers himself an ambassador and intermediary between Groningen’s cultural scene, from dance clubs to music venues and other businesses that come to life when the sun goes down, and the political and business community that operates during daylight hours.
During Experience Groningen this spring, foreign students and professionals heard from Poolman and Groningen’s “day” mayor, Peter den Oudsten – Poolman says that he sees it as part of his responsibilities as mayor to help internationals get in touch with the city’s nightlife and find their scene. The night mayor also wants to make it easier for small scale cultural events to have access to funding, but perhaps Poolman’s most ambitious goal is the creation of a nighttime city hall.
Poolman envisions a central location where the public health service agency GGD for party goers to seek advice about safely using legal drugs, including recommendations about dosing for users based on their weight, height, age and use of other substances, and a place to provide information to prevent sexual harassment, report any violations they experience in the city and even get tested for sexually transmitted infections.
The Northern Times’ Traci White followed Poolman around to get an idea of what a night in the life of the night mayor looks like.