Pride director Lawrence Barton appointed as Birmingham’s first Night-Time Economy Champion
Birmingham Pride festival director Lawrence Barton has become the city’s first Night-Time Economy Champion, appointed by Birmingham City Council.
The announcement was made after Barton’s installation received the backing of the Leader of Birmingham City Council and the Chairs of the City Centre Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).
According to the council, the new role mirrors equivalent roles in London and Greater Manchester and “will see Lawrence work with the Council, business districts and local stakeholders to champion Birmingham’s thriving nightlife and ensure that people can have a safe and enjoyable time when they visit the city centre.”
A well-known face in the city, Barton is described as a “businessman and a champion for the LGBT+ community”.
Festival Director and co-founder of Birmingham Pride, the entrepreneur is a senior director of a family-owned business portfolio that spans several sectors, ranging from skills and apprenticeships to hospitality and manufacturing.
He has been appointed to a number of notable leadership positions, including leadership commissioner for the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and board director of Birmingham Southside BID, a community regeneration initiative.
In March 2020, he was appointed to be a Deputy Lieutenant of the West Midlands by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the region, John Crabtree OBE.
Commenting on his latest appointment, Barton said: “I’m eager to get started as Night-Time Economy Champion. There’s a pressing need for action on the serious challenges facing venue operators. Not least the spiralling price of utilities, the need to recruit and retain high-quality staff, and the problems which clubs such as mine encounter from encroaching residential developments.
“I intend to take a holistic approach to drawing up the plan to protect and enhance the city’s nightlife. This means bringing together all the key stakeholders – including the police, business owners, and employees – to come up with a design which will futureproof our night-time economy so it can be enjoyed for years to come.
“What I really need now is for those stakeholders to get onboard with what we’re doing. There’s not a moment to waste.”
Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “We’ve been clear in our commitment to help our night-time economy to thrive by appointing a Night-Time Economy Champion.
“Lawrence is a fantastic advocate for our city and has done so much to promote Pride and the Gay Village. I look forward to working closely with him in his new role as we work to make Birmingham’s Night-Time Economy more enjoyable and safer for everyone, right across our city.”
Lawrence will take up his role as Night-Time Economy Champion subject to completion of the Council’s decision-making process.
What does a Night-Time Economy Champion do?
The Night-Time Economy Champion (NTEC) will be responsible for compiling a plan for Birmingham’s night-time economy, “championing the city’s thriving nightlife and ensuring that people on a night out can have a safe and enjoyable time.”
Appointed to a 4 year-term, first postholder Lawrence Barton will be instated until the Annual Council Meeting in May 2026.
According to Birmingham City Council, the NTEC “will provide advice and guidance to the Leader of the Council on improving the night-time economy in Birmingham and bring businesses together with wider stakeholders to push for investment and action to support the night-time economy.”
The night-time economy tsar will also hold engagement events with employees of the night-time economy to further understand the issues that they face, lobby central government for improvements in legislation and taxation, and work collaboratively across the city with key partners.
In a public statement, the council states, “The post is not remunerated and is an appointment of the Leader of the Council in consultation with the Chairs of the City Centre Business Improvement Districts, and is made in accordance with the Council’s commitment to promoting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the City.”
Who is Lawrence Barton?
Lawrence Barton is a successful entrepreneur and businessman who, for over two decades, has led Birmingham-based skills and apprenticeships provider, GB Training.
First established in 1995 by Gill Barton, at its height the family run training provider equipped over five thousand young people each year with the skills and expertise to successfully secure employment, according to Barton’s official website.
Barton began his career training part time as an apprentice at the then GB Training Consultancy, while also studying for his bachelor’s degree at Manchester University. After graduating in 1998, he joined GB Training Consultancy full-time. Five years later, in 2003, he was appointed Managing Director of GB Training Ltd, a role he held until 2020. Three years later, he oversaw the expansion into the group’s hospitality industry.
In 2006, he opened the group’s first bar – currently The Loft bar and kitchen – which occupied a converted part of the existing GB Training premises. Based on a food and beverage concept with cocktails, the bar was a success and was the precursor to opening The Village Inn in 2007, a live entertainment venue nearby.
Four years later, in 2011, the Barton’s group acquired The Nightingale Club, reportedly rescuing it from administration. According to management, all three venues collectively employ over 100 staff generating an annual turnover in excess of £5m.
Barton is also a significant shareholder in James Mayor Furniture, a design company founded nearly three decades ago.
In addition to his business career, Lawrence Barton has long been an active community leader and equalities campaigner.
In 2009, Barton was appointed director of Birmingham Pride and set about transforming the festival from what was seen by many as a fringe event restricted to the gay district in Birmingham’s Southside into a broader more inclusive festival open to families and individuals from all walks of society.
Key to this was ramping up the festival’s appeal and popularity by enhancing its visibility. Over a three-year period of intense lobbying, Lawrence persuaded city authorities to grant the Birmingham Pride parade a prime-time slot that would see the route run through the heart of Birmingham city centre.
Ten years on, Lawrence continues to serve as festival director and has bolstered the LGBTQ+ event into the second largest pride festival in the country. One of the most recent parades boasted over 7,000 participants and over 100,000 spectators.
According to organisers, Birmingham Pride has raised over £275,000 in charitable donations and delivers an economic impact to the city in excess of £30m.
Alongside co-director David Nash, Barton has in recent years moved to shake-up Pride festivities in the city by recruiting an all-female, more diverse and inclusive team to manage key public facing areas of the event.
Separately, Barton is a West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) leadership commissioner and a board director of the Birmingham Southside BID, enlisted to promote equality and diversity within the WMCA area.
In March 2020, in recognition of his community work, Lawrence was appointed to be a Deputy Lieutenant of the West Midlands, supporting the Lord-Lieutenant in his role as the Queen’s regional representative.