Growing up in Northampton in the 1980s Britain meant I had the ambition to live in London. Fortunately this was easy back then: house prices had been deflated by a crash, squats were still legal and rampant capitalism wasn’t quite so rampant. Living in London meant, and still means, being in a city where everything is happening, everywhere, all the time across and between many cultural groups. Sadly this London is beginning to recede (like my hair) being gradually replaced with a ubiquitous norm. I worry that my children’s London will not be the wonderful place I experienced at eighteen, but maybe with some effort it will.
“Living in London meant, and still means, being in a city where everything is happening”
We often take London’s cosmopolitanism for granted. I would say it’s the most exciting European city—it’s incredibly vibrant in terms of the culture you can participate in. It is sophisticated in ways other cities are not. It has its own kind of dynamic and it has a certain diversity and cultural milieu that is incredibly unique and resonates in all kinds of ways—there’s a reason a lot of people want to come here. It’s the envy of the country and the envy of the world! Sometimes I think folks voted Brexit to take revenge on Londoners.
Artist and filmmaker based in London and Delhi, she is winner of the 2019 Frieze Artist Award
London is like a leviathan that formed out of all the forgotten fragments in an ocean: coral for eyes and plastic for skin. It is a vast, pompous, dingy, damp, heaving, frail, remorseless throne of dappled light and desire in a hundred languages. London is a hyper-object, it is more than itself, it regularly loses itself. It rummages for evidence of its past and it misses the mark. It doesn’t fall in love because it cannot seize love. But on some days the wrinkles around its face soften and the periphery falls in focus, and on those days, it holds me.
“London is a vast, pompous, dingy, damp, heaving, frail, remorseless throne of dappled light and desire in a hundred languages”
Painter and member of the Royal Academy, where he is Professor of Perspective
I was brought up in the countryside where everyone knew your business and in those days if you wanted to buy mounting card it was a choice between maroon and olive. Here in London you can be anonymous, get almost anything you need plus you can see a Rembrandt. It is a country all by itself.
Artist based in London working with video, live performance and sound, nominated for the Jarman Award in 2018
It’s the slow-building beat that hovers across a needle,
Dragging through a landscape made of glossy black vinyl.
Sends shivers through the skin.
Constantly fluctuating, but never dormant.
Writer and co-host of the Literary Friction podcast
My relationship with London is one of deep love, deep frustration and deep roots. I was born, and mostly grew up here; it’s been both the home I didn’t choose and the one I eventually did. The city and I take each other for granted—we forget to take care of each other, get sick of each other, push each other away and then come back together full of promises and apologies. It’s absurd to anthropomorphise a city, though—the city doesn’t care about anyone, and that’s become abundantly clear as time’s gone on and it’s steadily become a place of greater inequality. I’ve always loved how wild and multiple London is, how many different ways there are to live here, but lately the increasing disparity between the rich and the poor has felt ever more brutal. It’s a constant paradox: a place electric with creative energy that’s steadily pricing out the artists that make it so. I think we have to fight for its soul!
“It’s a constant paradox: a place electric with creative energy that’s steadily pricing out the artists that make it so”
London-based multi-disciplinary artist working in film, sculpture and photography
London is my home I am her ambassador. She forged my identity and my thinking. London teaches me culture and history, every time I walk her streets. London has taught me to realise the goal posts of taste, and free radical opinions and thinking. But most importantly London has exported the greatest examples of its multiculturalism as a beacon of hope to others.
Queer performance and video artist represented by Belmacz in Mayfair
London is a city of spontaneous and magic interactions. Whether it’s the drunk Telegraph reporter I met on a breakfast walk on the Thames foreshore who told me about his brick collection, or the man and his dog who paint abstract interpretations of busy intersections. Stumbling upon a free three hour class in the art of the Japanese tea ceremony, or taking a daily tour of the Tate Britain by one of its many volunteers with idiosyncratic takes on art and life.
London facilitates chats on buses about cooking fish or arguments with Spanish schoolchildren standing on the overlooked mosaics in the National Gallery. Random meetings with a nun who is horrified by the Roman soldiers in Jean Cocteau’s mural hidden just off Leicester square, or buying crayfish from the Chinese fishmonger round the corner that wriggle in your bag on the way home. London is a series of maddening and hysterical connections. Just leaving the house, for me, is a small adventure every time.
Spotlight on London
Our five-part series explores the British capital and its creative communities.EXPLORE THE SERIES