Urban Pioneers: Dortmund’s Night Manager

19 February 2024

In the latest article in our Urban Pioneers series, we speak to Chris Stemann, who has been Night Manager for the City of Dortmund’s Economic Development Agency since 2021.

Chris, who is an internationally renowned DJ and event organiser with over 25 years’ experience, uses his knowledge of the night-time economy to support local bars and clubs, build community relations, and ensure that the city’s night-time culture thrives.

His innovative role, which is one of the first of its type in Europe, was created by Dortmund’s city government during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the goal of helping night businesses to survive and recover. It was initially planned to last for two years, but has proved so successful that Chris has continued to expand his work in the community.

He describes himself as a moderator and communicator, working in a ‘glue position’ to build exciting music and culture projects between the city’s administration and club operators, owners and artists, and to support economic growth, jobs and urban development.

He also makes sure that the city government and night-time businesses continue to communicate about any issues that might arise, and he works to build more positive relations between young people and residents in the city, ensuring that the younger generation can meet and express themselves, while respect and peace are maintained.

“Appreciation for all is the main aim in what we do,” Chris states.

What are you trying to achieve in your position?

Clubs are culture! When starting the job, the main aim was to help the clubs to survive and to help them to get through the pandemic. The City of Dortmund provided aid funds, restart campaigns, advice and more. At the end of 2023, we abandoned the ‘entertainment tax’ as well as the ‘closing hour’, to provide young collectives and club operators with the best possible work requirements in our city!

A new level of quality in communicating and dealing with each other at eye-level, between clubs and city administration, was established, based on trust, understanding and respect.

Furthermore, nightlife has changed and besides club life, there are a number of new tasks, especially concerning unorganised partying in urban spaces. There is a classic conflict between young people and residents that needs to be moderated.

What’s your personal motivation to do this job?

In my former life before the pandemic hit, I had worked as a concert and party promoter, having my own little promotion agency for 25 years, as well as a DJ (I am called Firestarter), having played in more than 40 countries.

Getting older, ‘content’ becomes more and more important to me. Also, the music business is tough, and if we  have learned anything from the pandemic, it is that we now understand how much we need each other, instead of working against each other.

Giving back to young artists and collectives, it is very appealing to share my experience. Being seen as “one of them,” there is much appreciation due to my ‘night-time credibility.’

Walk us through a day in your shoes.

There is no typical day in this job. I am in the office during the day, doing administrative work, but I also do about 100+ away dates per month, as well as being around during the night, especially on weekends.

Working with people for me first and foremost means that you have to be around!

The most rewarding thing about the job is what I like the most: getting to meet new people, ideas and inspiration and helping to improve the city’s future concerning club and nightlife, especially for the new generations that spent years in lockdowns due to the pandemic. I am still as curious as ever to meet people and to get to know their ideas and feel their energy!

What are your main challenges? 

It’s a political job a lot of the time. Therefore, you have to communicate, talk and explain things to the public, to political parties and club owners.

Speaking in public is a great challenge for me, being someone that had always chosen music as his universal language, the music always spoke for me, that was my way of expression. Finding words instead is a new task for me, but I love challenges and it’s getting better every time I do it.

When was the last time you felt that your position had a positive impact on your city’s inhabitants?

In the last couple of years, we have built the ‘DORTMUND GUIDES’, our own de-escalation and prevention team for urban spaces in the city.

It is a new approach to municipal conflict management. Our idea is to treat (partying) kids in the streets and in urban places with respect and understanding, treating them like guests! We want them to feel welcome and appreciated, with all their ideas and unique energy. And we are contact persons for residents too. Bringing all sides together leads to understanding and respect for each other and to behavioural changes by building relationships.

Now, 24 months since the ‘Dortmund Guides’ first started, the streets of Dortmund appear to be much safer during the night time.

Police and public order offices state that they have up to 40% less calls and operations, linked to the work we do. This is such encouraging feedback, which is also shared by locals, clubs and the kids themselves!

On New Year’s Eve 2023/2024, the city held a public party for 5,000 people in Dortmund’s central square, Friedensplatz, bringing together all the experiences we developed over the past two years. Most other cities in our state cancelled all public celebrations due to fear of terror attacks and the worry that female guests in particular could be harassed. However, our event was a joyful, peaceful celebration without any conflicts, violence or similar incidents.

This was the result of teamwork between all the different administrative departments, bringing together musical variety from all of the clubs in the city, and a Lord Mayor, Mr. Thomas Westphal, who understands and supports nightlife and its importance. This is the key to our success and it makes me proud to be part of these new ways in the city that I love.

Dortmund's New Year's Eve outdoor concert
The Dortmund Guides
The Dortmund Guides during Dortmund's New Year's concert

If you had a magic wand, what could significantly improve the way you do your job?

To get more support for my work. If we could build up a small team of one or two more people, it would have such a positive effect on what could be achieved! That’s really my only wish.

Pitch your job to other local, regional, national or European governments. 

The competition between big cities these days is simple: how does a city manage to attract young generations, so that young people not only work and study in your city, but perceive it to be attractive enough that they want to stay?

The night-time economy and urban development belong together. More and more cites have started to realise this. The job of a Night Manager / Night Mayor is to ensure that a city’s night-time economy can continue to grow, create and thrive.


This interview is part of ‘Urban Pioneers,’ a Eurocities series published every second and fourth Monday of the month spotlighting innovative and original job positions in municipalities across Europe. Each article in this series highlights a job position aimed at improving wellbeing, health conditions, society and the environment in cities. From tackling the urban heat island effect to countering gender imbalances to encouraging sustainable mobility, ‘Urban Pioneers’ showcases how cities are leading by example and breaking new ground in enhancing people’s quality of life. ‘Urban Pioneers’ jobs can inspire national, regional and EU authorities to create similar positions in their own structures, multiplying across Europe’s regions and nations the positive impact that started in cities.

Article one: Officer for Basic Research in Women´s Issues in Vienna

Article two: Malmo’s Skateboarding Coordinator

Article three: Amsterdam’s Bicycle Mayor

Article four: Brussel’s Bouwmeester Maitre Architecte

Article five: Munich’s Head of the Equal Opportunities Office for Women 

Article six: Vienna’s Integration Officer

Article seven: Antwerp’s Chief Resilience Officer


Andrew Kennedy Eurocities Writer