London is changing

Oh, this old chestnut. Should you move to London? If you’re in London, is it worth clinging on? How long do you continue to scrabble desperately at the last remaining fragments of your overdraft?

If you’re in the creative industry, the answer seems to be ‘sod it, just go and stick it out for a bit’. And by ‘go’ that means ‘go to London’.

Apparently the capital’s got an ‘unusually high’ concentration of creatives. So says an article in The Stage, quoting another depressing report on the lack of opportunities outside of London and the south-east. The jobs available in the rest of the UK – not just England, the whole damn thing – make up a little over half of the entire creative industry. That’s… that’s not encouraging.

The creative economy in London provides 15% of the jobs. Isn’t that a bit scary? One (and a half) in ten of the people you meet on the street is a creative just like you. They might be the competition, or they might be the one person you need to schmooze to get your foot in the door. Most of the time, it’s impossible to tell the difference.

Thing is, even with more jobs here in Laaaandan and a bigger, clunkier industry churning rainbows out every five minutes, lots of people are leaving.

The ‘London is changing’ project is taking anonymous feedback from people who are either relocating to London or getting the hell out. I tried taking some pics of the billboard near Holborn, but the images from their website look much better. (Obviously, because I didn’t pursue a career in photography. Yeesh.)

It’s meant to present both sides of the argument, and there are comments from those making a good go of it here.

Unfortunately, the number of comments from people who’ve given up on London looks a bit higher right now.

Yeah, this doesn’t feel depressing at all.

I’ll let you in on a secret. A couple of weeks ago, I was very close to packing up and leaving London for good myself.

I came here almost four years ago, also to try and kick my career off. At the time it was an adventure. I’d always thought I could never live in a city because of the crowds. And the endless queuing. And having to arm-wrestle my way onto a bus in the morning. Slowly, I’ve adapted to this crazy life. I love the convenience of London now – going back to a town with one bus every half an hour will destroy my soul. And yet I’ve seriously considered it over the past few months.

As anyone and everyone will bitch about in the pub over a £6 pint of weak piss, the biggest factor is the cost. I’m paying more to live in a glorified cupboard in zone 3 than I would to rent a 2-bedroom house in my home town. And I could quite easily work from there. It feels like a no-brainer when you look at it that way.

So what’s keeping me here? I had a proper think about that one, because at one point there were zero reasons for me to stay.

There’s a general sense of loneliness, for example. The larger the city you live in, the lonelier it gets. I’ve wormed my way into SSZ and met a lot of interesting people, but I can count my ‘friends’ here on one hand. As it happens, many of them used to be in London and have now left. Oh, the irony.

The main reason I’ve stuck it out in London for so long is simple. It is, sadly, that one fluttering hope in the dark: opportunity. So far I’ve been able to see, do and experience more than I would ever have done living with Mum and Dad.

What keeps me here is that gnawing feeling in the back of my head that leaving will sever the connections I worked so hard to make. That as soon as I start loading the van, someone will ring and offer me an amazing job. It’s just like the permanent state of tension people have on the Central line – it feels like something could happen at any moment.

Yep, London is definitely changing. But having change hanging in the air can be sort of exciting.

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