In this edition of KOMPAS Stories, the series in which we interview Londoners about their favourite place in the city, Brendan tells us about why he loves Shoreditch, and in particular, Old Street.
The first place that came to mind was Campus London, around Old Street. I love it because it allows the London start-up scene to create a community for free. You don’t have to go to WeWork, you don’t have to go to Huckletree – you can just turn up, speak to people and make stuff happen, even if it’s overcrowded now. It was really cool back in the day. What I found best was that I did not come from a tech background, didn’t know anything about the startup scene, and I actually thought it was this mystical place where only the brightest people work. You go to Campus and you see that there’s a testing bench where people actually make stuff happen, there are seats where people are on their laptops, everyone is working on different ideas. But the good thing to see is that those are people like you and me, just normal people. It gave me the confidence, the reassurance that if I want I can just sit down, work, talk to a few people. And even if it’s a stupid idea, you can work on it for a month, and nothing may happen out of it but you get so many contacts and opportunities out of just giving it a shot. I came out of university to that scene and it simply blew my mind.
As an area in general, I’d say Old Street, Shoreditch. Old Street because of the tech scene. In my old job, we always used to go to the food market by Waitrose. The first time I was there, I looked around the stores and I saw that you could pay in Bitcoin. That blew my mind. I never thought that it could be that easy, I thought that could happen in Silicon Valley or Google HQ, but not in a food market in Old Street. It’s really cool. That sort of sums up the area for me. It’s really different in terms of the tech community. It’s very British, London, but at the same time, there’s so much happening that may have a global impact.
Shoreditch, on the other hand, used to be really cool and edgy – now it’s sort of become, in big part due to the startup scene, really mainstream, but it still has its cool things. The cat cafe is there, cool bars, and there is always a lot of stuff going on. I live just off Shoreditch, so it’s an area that really has a lot of importance in my life. When people look at Shoreditch becoming mainstream, they look at it in a bad way. I actually think it’s a good thing as it creates accessibility for Londoners and people exploring the city. It’s sort of a double-edged sword. It used to be cooler, it used to be only for real Londoners, but now so much is happening and it’s doing a lot of good stuff for the area.
Where I live, in Columbia Road, used to be a sketchy area. All the drug dealers were there. Now, because Shoreditch is becoming such a trendy place, and much more upmarket, the area I live in is seeing that same change. I think that’s great because even the people that live in the council homes around the area, can find work more easily, they’re getting a better quality of life, and crime is going down. It’s creating a safer London. It’s a shame that, yes, it’s losing its uniqueness, but at the same time… Well, two things. One, it pushes places such as Tottenham to be cooler, allowing for change to happen, and two, it’s sort of an organic way to improve the city. Other areas of the city are improving because this area is becoming more upmarket. I think that’s great. That’s why I love Shoreditch.
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