As a public services geek, everything I know about a good night out is from Dutch road safety research. For example, human interaction is a good thing. For a long time, traffic engineer Hans Monderman has been showing how, if you remove signage from roads and intersections, people pay more attention to their environment and to each other and so there are fewer crashes. When you have to negotiate a junction rather than just follow the rules, you are more observant and responsive to your environment. That means fewer road deaths but also a better road environment in which people relate to one another more humanely.
For me, this applies to much of city life more generally - just as we are herded in our cars, we are herded down pavements and through fast food joints, occasionally tapping in our PIN, but rarely making eye-contact. Brixton Village is not like that - it's a market with lots of pop-up bars and restaurants, seemingly growing in number every week. Because it's new and pop-up and in Brixton and some of the food is fantastic, it seems like a place to be seen for my cooler fellow Londoners. I like all of that, but what I love is its similarity to those Dutch junctions - because it's pop-up, there's little signage and few cues as to how to behave, so that you have to interact with other human beings. Because you can't tell what's a shop, what's a restaurant and what is just a kitchen, you find yourself asking dumbly, 'would it be OK if I sat here?', 'If I gave you some money, could I have some of that food?'. The result is that these simple exchanges are brought to life and made sociable. 'He says we can sit here!' 'The guy's going to make us some tea!'. There are cynics who say that Brixton Village is just yuppification, but I don't think that's fair. It's a great initiative and a brilliant night out.