Designer Clara Cicely decodes the mythic pull of the capital, which draws creatives seeking their fortune away from our city, and into its misty folds. She narrates her own tale of longing, exploration and disappointment, which will surely be familiar to many. How many others have stood on the platform at Lime Street, waiting for a train which symbolises a journey into finality, a place for people just like them?
I spent most of my teenage life waiting until I was old/stable enough to move to the Big Smoke. It became such an important goal for me as soon as I realised I wanted to work in fashion. London is known for being one of the world’s fashion capitals and is recognised globally for its creative talent. To me it was a place for all the freaks and outcasts to live how they want, dress how they want and express themselves freely. People I wanted to dress and people whom I admired had all lived or worked there at some point. A glimmer of hope at a time in my life when I hadn’t been exposed to this sense of belonging yet, that just kind of stuck with me. So, as you can imagine, when the opportunity arose to move there, I grasped it firmly with both hands. I put so much expectation and pressure on it to be the perfect place and convinced myself that once I arrived my life would begin and everything would go right. But here I am: skint, miserable and writing this article on why I hate London.
As a creative student, it gets drilled into you that London is the place to be if you want to make something of yourself. “But it’s where all the good jobs are!” is something I’ve also regurgitated to people. What they don’t tell you is that most of them are unpaid unless you’ve somehow gathered five years experience in two months and it’s extremely difficult to get that experience unless you have a lot of money. How can big companies (especially ones that make millions, who could easily afford to pay their interns) expect young students or graduates to be able to work 10-hour shifts, five days a week for nothing but travel reimbursements – if you’re lucky – and still be able to pay rent and feed themselves? The whole ‘exposure is payment’ concept needs to be killed off. Yes, exposure is great. Yes, I absolutely would do it for the experience if I could afford to live at the same time, but the reality is I can’t, and neither can most other people.
Going from the north to the south is more of a culture change than I ever thought it would be. It is very difficult to meet people/network and therefore potentially find work, in a city that is not very open. It’s kind of an unwritten rule in London that everyone keeps themselves to themselves – which definitely has good points but ultimately makes it a lot harder when you don’t know anyone and it comes to meeting people. Everyone is out for themselves and the ‘scene’ is super exclusive and not welcoming.
One of the biggest realisations I had after relocating was how much stuff there actually is going on in Liverpool that I’d been oblivious to, and how accessible it is. In fact, most of the opportunities I’ve had since then have been in the north. Because it’s a small city, there’s such a tight creative community and everyone is always down to help out, recommend each other for work or collaborate on projects. The city is packed full of artists, musicians, writers, and hard-working people who wouldn’t sabotage their peers to get what they want. It is the kind of city I am incredibly proud to be from, and will be moving back to for this reason. Although moving to London’s been a huge wake up call, some good has come out of it, as it’s truly made me realise what a great city I come from and that what really matters is being happy in a good environment. It’s near impossible to be creative when you’re in the wrong environment, your brain just won’t allow it. Sometimes it’s best to see for yourself – but if it doesn’t work out that is more than fine too. Don’t let people tell you where you need to be, go where makes you happy.
Behind the scenes on the shoot, by Leech.