Me and my camera in my home town, my capital city, my london
This week’s photographs all feature glimpses of London nightlife which I have been moaning about a lot recently in person so thought I might as well do it here too. You possibly might have noticed I haven’t been saying much recently about this city because I try to follow the basic rule of thumb that if you don’t have anything good to say don’t say anything at all. However it is quite hard for me to keep schtum indefinitely so here goes…
London nightlife has perceptively diminished over the last few of years losing pubs, bars, clubs and music venues across the board. But more importantly it has lost people. There just aren’t as many around as there used to be. The places that are still open all feel a bit quiet and these days you kinda have to chase the party. This was never the case in central London. The party was everywhere. You just had to walk out your door and you would find it. Whole areas such as Camden, Soho, Notting Hill, even Shoreditch are pale comparisons of their former selves. But no people, no party. And the people have disappeared in their droves never to return.
Its weird because sometimes I feel like I am going mad because I remember it being so different, with the streets teeming with nighttime revellers and every pub rammed most nights of the week and there was just more of a buzz everywhere but that world is no longer visible and no-one is talking about the change, no-one appears to be acknowledging the difference so you start to think…did I imagine it? Was it really like that? Maybe I’m remembering it wrong? But deep down I know everyone feels the same way but just aren’t possibly admitting it for the simple reason that no-one wants to highlight the fact they are living in a worse version of where they used to live. And maybe nightlife just isn’t as important to them as it is to me. For me that is what makes a city.
Now, please assume this is an overall feeling and includes sweeping generalisations obviously there is still tons to do in London at night and some places are packed out all the time (especially at the poncy posh end) but it does not feel like the city it was to me. It has lost its buzz. Its edge. Its coolness. The era of Cool Britannia is most definitely over and its post-brexit replacement does not have the kudos or the coolness to compete. If anything it is the polar opposite. Brexit Britain ain’t cool, its cold.
This city has been victim to the ravages of gentrification as we all know and I have spouted on about many times but the bustling nightlife has been greatly reduced by a multi-whammy effect. High rents pushed everyone out so they literally weren’t living in the city anymore which naturally curtailed their city socialising. The ones that stayed had less money so they went out less. The developers bought and tore down so many of the nightlife venues which meant that people who did want to go out had nowhere to go and all this happened just as they introduced the night tube which they completed just in time for everything to close.
Its not just property investment that has reduced the vibe of this city. People’s habits have also massively changed. The drinking culture that dominated the 20th century has been gradually subsiding and this new generation are the first to drink less than previous ones as they do not feel getting wasted is quite as cool as former gens have considered it and would rather be connected digitally than plastered in person. They also don’t really have a lot of disposable income so they don’t really have the cash to go out even if they wanted. This combination of factors has had a huge effect in reducing the numbers of 20 somethings out and about at night who were always previously the dominant age demographic.
These days people are more likely to meet people in cafes and gyms than nightlife venues. People used to queue to get into clubs and now they queue for restaurants. Or they skip the reality middle man altogether and meet on tinder or other dating sites and apps. Is this worse or just different? I don’t think getting twatted and trying to pull in a club was the pinnacle of human civilisation, far from it but it was at least more exciting than sitting on your own swiping. If online becomes the only avenue we are going to feel very isolated very quickly.
I am a nightlife lover. Always have been. Ever since I heard the song ‘Nite Klub‘ by The Specials. All I wanted to do after that was hang out in clubs and go dancing and hear loud music and hang out with people dressed up for the occasion. I find clubs exciting and fascinating and a ton of fun and it never got old for me but I am from a different era and my world is crumbling around me and a new one is being born. I really don’t want to be the guy saying it was better in my day. Its way too much of a cliche but if I am honest that is how I feel. I can’t help the feeling that the party here is a little bit over. Every dog has its day and London’s might be done. There will always be fun to be had here, you just might have to try a little harder to find it.
Epilogue: I was once in a queue waiting to get into a club night at the Coronet in Elephant & Castle which has a notoriously slow security check and we waited outside for nearly an hour to get in. Obviously I had a bit (well a lot) of a gripe about it as we waited (there was nothing else to do) and once we were inside this girl came up to me and said..”oh, you’re the disgruntled queue guy” like I was the problem for bringing it up rather than it being a problem in itself. And this is how I feel when I bemoan the issues of London nightlife these days. Scorned for flagging it up. But it actually kills me the most because I was this city’s biggest fan and it brings me no joy to highlight its failings. So I guess maybe she was right…I am the disgruntled queue guy. I might get T-shirts printed. Or at least business cards: Babycakes Romero. Disgruntled Queue Guy. Kinda catchy don’t you think?