Commuting to East London from Notting Hill, Hanna Gelana sees London’s future prospects mapped out in front of her.
I’m new to East London. I’m new to its creative and alternative demeanour, and to its mesmerising futuristic perspective. But I get the feeling that a lot of people are new to East London too – people from other parts of London don’t know what’s here; and some of those who live here don’t seem to know how important it is for the whole of city. So by way of illustration, here’s a brief account of my movements between both sides of London.
Recently enrolled at the University of East London, nowadays I commute between Notting Hill, off Portobello Road, to UEL’s Docklands Campus. At the West end of my journey, I find myself squeezing past tourists who just stand there – frozen, apparently – gawking at landmarks. They have come in search of Notting Hill; not the reality but the romcom starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.
As I head East to Bank on the Central Line, I fight for space (politely, of course) among office workers who are already enacting their office routine. Suited and booted, they don’t care to be interrupted. But they have learned to share their commuting space with the holiday makers and day trippers who are the only ones showing any interest in the historic monuments just a few metres above ground. You know how it goes: we just don’t miss it till it’s gone.
There’s something which I like to call ‘The West End bubble’, which, personally, I think I was protected by as I grew up. From primary school right the way through to college I have always resided in West London. It’s my home and I love it. But I have to say I never really saw what the other parts of London had to offer. I was well and truly surrounded by this invisible shield, protecting me from broadening my knowledge of the city I inhabit.
The West side and its attractions – the original Westfields, Hyde Park and Covent Garden – were as familiar as my own doorstep, but the only thing I remember about other areas of London is my readiness to put them down as second rate. Oh how I was so wrong!
Brick Lane and Spitlefields, London Bridge and Stratford’s theatres were all days out which I missed when I was growing up – and now I am dismayed that I missed out on them for so long.
If I had remained in my western cocoon, I would have missed out entirely on the transformation of the old East End – all crime and council estates (allegedly), which is now at the heart of a new London. Thankfully, nowadays I have reason to see these changes as they happen, every time I travel towards campus on the area’s slightly timid rollercoaster, aka the Docklands Light Railway.
As the DLR takes its twists and turns you can see the surroundings being rebuilt.
Business men and women and students – all of us are noticeably young – not only overfill the DLR carriages, we are also filling up the future of London with promise and potential.