Living in Shoreditch

By Mike Watson

The 'Shoreditch Triangle', which incorporates Shoreditch High Street, Great Eastern Street and the Eastern-most point of Old Street (and the general locality, extending across to Brick lane and virtually meeting the City on Bishopsgate has fast become an international centre. In the span of 10 years or so it has moved on from being a particularly cheap real estate area, which attracted throngs of poor artists, to becoming the centre of the art world. Whilst to be sure, its success risks its becoming another Notting Hill or Angel Islington - full of 'trustfundists', wannabes and media schmaltz - it still maintains a character of its own, full of hidden bars, galleries, squat parties that rarely get shut down, art, dissent, good food and a true international presence.

Shoreditch is part of the London Borough of Hackney and is ideally placed in relation to the City, to the South and the South West, the barbican, to the West, Farringdon and Clerkenwell, also West and Angel to The north. Hackney resides to the East and North East, Incorporating Old Street, Brick Lane, Curtain Road, the West End of Bethnal Green Road and Hackney Road, and a Warren of smaller roads between, Shoreditch is home to literally thousands of creative individuals, from Fine Artists to musicians, designers and filmmakers.

The scenery, though still largely industrial, and otherwise populated by a large proportion of ex-authority housing, allows for constant exploration: Perpetual renovation and rebuilding makes this a vibrant area to settle in.

Housing

Housing in the heart of Shoreditch can be expensive. Loft conversion and make shift studio flats are often slightly over priced due in the immediate vicinity of Old Street. This is unsurprising considering the proximity of the area to transport links and the fact that it is, literally, walking distance from the City of London. Moving further out up Kingsland Road towards Dalston, or East down either Hackney Road or Bethnal Green Road things get gradually cheaper. You can find affordable multi share housing, often with creative individuals.

People

There is a strong international community that populates Shoreditch as a whole, and no one group dominates. Apart from the long established Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities there are a great many Eastern Europeans, Americans, French, and so on. It would seem that there are rather less Antipodeans in East London than in West London, although Australian, New Zealanders and South Africans are represented, especially as so many work in the neighbouring City.

There is till a high presence of die hard East Londoners in and around Shoreditch. On the whole they mix fairly well with the incoming creative and tourist communities. There is some local debate regarding whther or no the influx of wealthy middle class persons is having a detrimental effect on the character of the area. However with the Olympics up and 'progress' being what it is, the steady gentrification of East London is inevitable and is, perhaps, no bad thing. As the din of artist's parties drowns out the din of failing industry, one might reflect on how much of a success the regeneration of Shoreditch has become.

Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment

Joplin's 'White Cube', which occupies the South side of Hoxton Square is well known for its large scale opening views. These events, which attract art-revellers in their hundreds revolve as much around the free beer given away outside as the new exhibitions inside the gallery. The Victoria Miro gallery openings often coincide, just a fifteen minute walk away. The clientele at both galleries is similar, many of whom shunt from one to the other. On certain days of the month, hordes of art tourists trek from gallery to gallery, with tens of private views often taking place between Shoreditch and Central Hackney each week. This certainly presents many artists/art lovers with the opportunity to socialize while saving money on free beer.

Following such events it is not uncommon for much of this part Bohemian, part wannabe, part actual artists crowd to descend onto the bars of Shoreditch. The money they save on beer during the private views is poured into the local bar and restaurant industry. After all, before there were any artists in Shoreditch, there were barely any bars. Some point in the early noughties I recall trawling Old Street following an exhibition off the nearby City Road wondering what all the fuss was about. Apart the 'Foundry': a bar known for eclectic music, a squatter/activist crowd and decor to match there really was very little to do. Since then, movement has been outwards and upwards: there was a time around 2005 when there were several bars and restaurants opening a week. Real estate was being converted into restaurants so fast that pubs and clubs started moving up Kingsland road to Dalston, and simultaneously Eastwards to Bethnal Green.

Bars to Try: The Redchurch, Redchurch Street: Catch, Kingsland Road: The Cocomo, Old Street: The Reliance, Old Street.

Shops, Restaurants and Takeaways

All this while boutique shops sprang up where Curry houses once stood along Brick Lane (although there are still a great many left), capitalizing on the success of existing bars such as '93 Feet East' and 'Bar 1000'. The result is a sprawling mass of galleries and bars stretching from Whitechapel (to the South of Brick Lane) though Bethnal Green Road and Redchurch Street and on to the Shoreditch Triangle. Given the sheer proliferation of galleries, eateries, bars and boutique shops in the area it is difficult to recommend anything in particular. However, check out Brick Lane for Curry and Fashion, Spitalfields Market for nik-naks/fashion, Old Street for Bars, Kingsland Road for Vietnamese. Also check out 'Tas Firin' for Turkish food on Bethnal Green Road.

Transportation

With the neighbouring Old Street and Liverpool Street Tube stations and more than enough bus routes, Shoreditch is excellently placed for transportation links to the City, to Central and West London, to North London and to South London.

Good Points

  • vibrant creative culture
  • international community
  • great transport
  • great choice for eateries and bars

Bad Points

  • rising prices
  • traditional East End culture disappearing
  • gradually becoming less edgy and running the risk of becoming like Angel or Notting Hill

AREAS OF LONDON


Acton
Cheap rent means more money to spend at the pubs.


Brixton
Gritty, cheap and international with loads of character.


Camberwell
Edgy, gritty and artsy area close to central London.


Camden Town
Full of punks, market stalls and a great canal.


Clapham
Diverse area with everyone from yuppies to yobbos.


Ealing
Decent shopping but the nightlife is a bit uninspired.


Earl's Court
In zone one but expensive and full of tourists.


East Dulwich
A posh area south of the river but still affordable.


Finsbury Park


Fulham
Very nice area but expensive and the District line is crap.


Greenwich
Nice, safe, close to the city but not much nightlife.


Hammersmith
Great transport links and near to the Thames.


Kilburn
Great transport links but a bit dodgy at night.


Putney
Green and pretty but a little bit on the dull side.


Shepherd's Bush
A lively, edgy, multicultural area in West London.


Shoreditch
Edgy, creative and trendy with a great nightlife.


Stoke Newington


Tooting
A bit rough around the edges but a great place for a curry.


West Hampstead
Well connected by transport but a little expensive.


Willesden Green
Cheap, full of travellers and well connected.


Wimbledon
Nice area, decent nightlife and good transport to the city.

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