WHAT LONDON WAS LIKE 20 ODD YEARS AGO…
I recently told someone I was a Londoner born and bred and had only spent 7 years of my life out of the city. They were so surprised that they pointed me out to their friends at a party as a bit of an oddity….apparently, London is now so cosmopolitan that even Londoners are in the minority. BUT – hip, cool and happening as it may be now, it was not always so….
In 1990, I had two Dutch friends from Amsterdam who came to stay with me in London over Easter weekend because they were going to a concert. Well travelled themselves, and coming from the city that never slept, they were looking forward to a fun weekend in the city. They were not expecting pubs that did not open during the daytime on Sundays and EVERYTHING being shut over Easter weekend. Can you imagine that now?
20 years ago we used to pop up to the local ‘wasteland’ to see what this new Thatcherite concept called “The Docklands” was all about. It consisted of mud tracks and a few low rise buildings – very un-inspiring and frankly rather dull for a bunch of fun seeking students. If you go to Canary Wharf now, it feels like it has been there forever, with people teaming through every inch of the area.
The 1987 house crash hit hard and many people were left in serious negative equity situations. Graduates fresh from University were lucky to get jobs and if you knew anybody who had a fistful of strings to pull you would ask them to yank hard to get you a job. We were promised nothing and seemingly offered a bleak future in London.
In just 20 years London has gone from being a well known capital city trading on it’s historic landmarks, to a globally defined spot stunningly seating tradition and history shoulder to shoulder with leading business, technological innovation and burgeoning creative capital.
This influx does not look like it will stop, and it shows in the landscape and also in the small changes in the way we do things.
LANDSCAPE CHANGES – VIEWS FROM THE SHARD, 72nd FLOOR
The tallest building in London 25 years ago was the Natwest Tower – the black building here to the left on the photo.
The Walkie Talkie in the foreground is a monolithic piece of architecture – this building was infamous last year for inadvertently setting fire to a few local businesses by reflecting the sun on some of the hottest days onto doormats and wooden doorways. Ooops!
Heston Blumenthal is rumoured to be setting up a rooftop restaurant in the future – yet another amazing view to be had from up high…
You could never find a building tall enough to go where helicopters were drifting past your eyeline – sky high bars and restaurants were not around like they are now.
View from the shard – Canary Wharf in the distance – (that whole area was wasteland)…
If you walk through London and look up now, you will see all the major skyscrapers that are part of our landscape with plenty of cranes and building sites around showing how there is still so much development…
View looking up at The Cheesegrater, with The Gherkin just behind….
View of The Shard from Borough Market…
Some more views from the 72nd floor of the Shard…
St. Paul’s Cathedral looks so small – once a building that dominated the area
All these trans-global influences on our architecture may not be to everyone’s taste but nobody can argue that they do not put us on the map. London is now more than just a pretty face.
CHANGES IN THE WAY WE DO THINGS
You can see these influences locally too, Halloween used to be a minor diary date when I was growing up – fireworks and bonfire night playing a much larger part in the calendar. The American tradition of making Halloween a huge social occasion has taken grip here with children and grown ups alike. We went to the Clapham party shop (a very well known and huge place near Clapham Junction) to pick up last minute provisions for Halloween on 31st October. School girl error! At 1pm the queue was snaking out of the door and around the corner with a “one in, one out” door policy. Average age : 25-30….average spend £50+
A few scenes whilst Trick or Treating in Clapham…[row_fluid][one_third] [/one_third][one_third] [/one_third][one_third] [/one_third][/row_fluid]
Even the Shard had something to say on the 31st October 2014, this creature was on the 72nd floor…
Speaking of specifically American influences in south west London….
London is a city that is on a roll. Everybody wants a piece of it. It may be growing faster than our infrastructure can cope with it – sure that needs to fixed – but it’s taking on a life of it’s own, with businesses and people ready to step into whatever nook and cranny they can get hold of.
Competitive, high energy and magnetic – if you have a little corner of London that is yours then hang onto it no matter what happens if you can, it’s changing faster than I can write about it!