In media terms, London is probably one of the best cities in the world you could find yourself in. In weather terms, it’s outright depressing. And Londoners will tell you this. They know it, they loathe it, but yet they still take pride in it. Needless to say, I was very happy to come back to my home-base in Southern California for the summer (apparently it’s still cold and miserable in London even mid-June). But that’s not to say that I don’t miss London. I really do, in fact. After living there for roughly nine months, I certainly found myself being a Londoner and loathing the weather, and loathing the fact that I was becoming a cynical Londoner myself (although ironically, this is often the charm of British people – they’re amusingly dark and cynical about everything). But after having a month to reflect on my time there, and dearly missing my new friends, I must say that despite it’s faults, London is a bloody fantastic place. Being a postgraduate studying media, it really doesn’t get any better. I just wish now that I took even more advantage of what was right at my fingertips. I’m currently working on a compilation video of the past year (to hopefully be posted here later this week), and it’s got me all nostalgic for the place.
Although Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities in regards to London and Paris, he could have easily been writing about London alone, as it struggles with an identity crisis of being two very different cities. It’s divided between East and West, North and South, seen as dirty and clean, as posh and poor, as old and new. I lived on the cusp of London Hipsterdom (Shoreditch/Hackney/Hoxton) and saw the vibrant, eclectic masses of urban youth and the ethnic diversity surrounding Brick Lane. Contrasted with the many visits to the prim and proper and endlessly charming neighbourhoods of Notting Hill, Kensington, and Chelsea. Surely, London is much more than this – it has a huge financial backbone in the East and is nearing an age where London will be home to more foreigners than natives (much to the horror of many; much to the excitement of others). But one thing it definitely is, it’s a place of opportunity. Maybe not so much in the job market, but it offers something for everyone. Looking back, as a film and pop culture lover, London gave me all I could ask for (often at the cost of a pretty penny, err, pence). Cinemas? Everywhere. Theatres? You got it. Museums? Most definitely. Trendy bars? You betcha. My two favortie spots to study soon became outside the Somerset House, with views of the Thames, the Eye, and Ben, and the Tate Modern’s seventh floor café, with a great view of St. Paul’s and the Millennium Bridge. In these places I was surrounded by creativity and history – an encouraging atmosphere for any student. One of my first fun experiences in London was attending the London Film Festival screening of Like Crazy (ironically a heart-wrenching, too-close-to-home story of long distance love between LA and London) and one of my last was stumbling upon the world premiere of The Dictator. That doesn’t happen just anywhere.
Attending the London School of Economics also presented our student body with many venerated speakers within the media and political world. Reporters from the BBC and The Guardian came to speak to us about reporting the London riots and the changing role of journalism, the CEO of Conde Nast gave us insider tips on how to get into the magazine industry, we heard from people at Penguin and the challenges and advancements that digital media bring to publishing, we listened to our professors and their inspiring research in audience studies, Internet regulation and policy, ethics of journalism, and so much more. On my walk to school I’d pass the UK UNICEF office, a film production company, the British Museum, and the BBC. Not to mention the film sets that seemed to constantly be sprinkled about the city. There is so much going on in London with it being an important hub for the arts, entertainment, culture, NGO’s, and financial firms, that sometimes you don’t quite notice it while you’re there. But you do notice everyone from 5-8pm at the pub, with every tavern in town filled to the brim and spilling onto the sidewalk outside. As much as Londoners get slack for their seemingly cold demeanours, at the end of the day Londoners just want to keep good company while sharing a pint. After those drinks, then, London is their oyster to explore and to appreciate all it has to offer (I literally just got why they’re called Oyster cards – epiphany!). I know Londoners are not looking forward to the chaos that the Olympics will bring this summer, and I’m a bit regretful that I won’t be there for it, but I hope that in the least people will relish and value what London offers to our global community. It may be having an identity crisis, but who isn’t these days? It’s growing and evolving into something different from it’s traditional roots, and honestly, I’m excited to see what it decides to be when it grows up…although I am aware that, more than ever, that search never ends. Thank you, London, for being a part of my own search in life. For that, I am forever grateful. XX
“East London’s not a bomb site, it is a treasure chest”
-The Wombats, Techno Fan