Debut column for The Leopard (Goldsmiths’ student paper)
Fresher’s Column: Welcome to Ghetto Paradise
Prepare yourself freshers, you’re about to enter three of the most intense years of your life. By now you should’ve crashed through the doors of your new accommodation, careered yourself into Gateway Chicken in search of late night munch, and found yourself desperately stumbling down Rye Lane looking for the night bus home.
The next three years are about to be the busiest of your life. Not only will you be brushed off your feet by academia, it’s your chance to invent your own future. So whilst it might seem like a year of crying into library books – keep at it; you’ll meet a whole array of wonderful new faces, and discover an incredible city right before you.
So let me introduce to your new home. Lewisham is a ghetto paradise, a washed up residential neighbourhood in the middle of South London. Beached just east of buzzy Southwark, and just south of historic Greenwich, Lewisham is an old mariners town, born out of the Deptford docks, which sprung up during the industrial revolution. Nowadays, it’s getting more and more like it’s neighbour town, Peckham – filled with kitsch coffee shops and vegan wholefood cafes – but without the £500+ rent tag. It’s mariner’s history lives on through the washed up alcoholics and abandoned industrial estates.
In this era, Lewisham is the home of creative independence. Kate Bush, Jimi Hendrix and Maxi Priest have all lived and worked here – and with Goldsmiths at its very heart, Lewisham doesn’t look to be striding away from its creative legacy just yet. Lewisham’s creative charm lies not only in its people; but also in its pubs, clubs and music venues, tucked away behind its high streets. In my first year at Goldsmiths, I found myself in a whole of host of these dens; warehouse parties in Hackney Wick, squats in Lee, and house parties stretching from Wembley to Wapping
For those coming from other cities, the reality that London isn’t all just big buildings and famous landmarks can come as quite a shock. Instead it’s a sprawling suburban city, filled with lonely tower blocks, grubby chicken shops and giant industrial estates. It would be wrong not to mention the fact that Lewisham is a borough plagued by homelessness, alcoholism and mental illness. Just like any small town in the UK, it’s a melting pot for those forced to live outside the centre. But much of this is what gives Lewisham it’s colour, and keeps it free of the pretentiousness that’s slowly ruining much of London’s other suburban neighbourhoods.
Life here can be as buzzy as you want it to be, as with anything, it’s about how much you put in. The more work you put in to discovering the hidden haunts of this dark city, and the more it’ll give back to you. You’ll find very quickly that you warm to this cold suburban environment in a way you won’t quite expect. There’s something of an allure to its shabbiness. Whether you find yourself tucked in the basement of a mid-terrace dancing next to a makeshift sound system, or wasting afternoons away with half pints at the Marquis. The slow mashed up demeanour of this South London borough will soon start to feel very comfortable.
At Goldsmiths, you sit in the comfort of being on the confines of London, and believe me, in many ways, a suburban lifestyle here is a blessing. Life in the centre of London is beyond stressful. Prices are extortionate and the constant busyness is enough to ruin anyone.
Embracing the suburban paradise is key to life in London – it’s the place you spend the most of your time, and most importantly your home. Don’t be overshadowed by the city.