Whenever I tell someone what I do for a living, there’s one question that crops up almost instantly:
“Do you not need to live in London for that?”
As a freelance ~content creator~ working mostly in the fashion industry, living in London – one of the world’s leading fashion cities and home to the biggest brands and advertising agencies – would probably be beneficial for me. I’m sure I’d get more work, as I turn down at least a job a week because the client wants me in-house in London. And I’d certainly have more opportunity to network if I was able to attend the endless stream of London-based events I’m invited to.
But I don’t live in London. It’s not because I can’t afford it (although the cost of renting is MIND BOGGLING) or because I’m a scared of ‘the big city’ (Leeds is the 3rd largest in the UK, you know).
It’s because I don’t want to.
When I first went freelance back in 2011, I had a big wobble about living Not In London. I was working with a high fashion label and flying to New York for Fashion Week – when people clocked the British accent, they asked what “fashion’s like in London” and I felt like such a fraud with my Zara heels and LS postcode. I’d just nod and smile and do my posh phone voice so no one would guess I wasn’t actually part of the London Fashion Scene.
When someone asked me what part of London I lived in and I replied “Shoreditch” (classic), their response was “me too! Whereabouts?” which left me flustering about for an answer (Dalston? Are they the same place?!) before walking away mid-conversation and promising myself I’d be more truthful from then on.
I toyed with the idea of moving down for a while, but Rob was wholly unconvinced and to be honest, I don’t think I ever wanted to go. I thought I needed to, but it was really just a bad case of FOMO clouding my judgement and the promise of all those burger restaurants reeling me in (it was 2011, after all).
So I didn’t move to London. I stayed in Leeds, a city that’s only 40 minutes from where I grew up. And there are a few reasons for that…
Firstly, I’m a bit horrified by the cost of living in London. I think when you’ve been in the north for so long, it’s even harder to wrap your head around paying £700+ per month for a room when up here you’d get a 4-bedroom house for that. Travelling everywhere by public transport seems like a hassle when you’re used to the convenience of a car. Handing over £7 for a single G&T is simply ludicrous. Northerners are renowned for being tight but actually, stuff is just much more affordable up here.
Secondly, I’m just a little chippy about moving to London. As someone who doesn’t live there, you’re kinda reminded of it All. The. Time. We hear constantly how ‘everyone should live in London at least once’ and ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’, but really – why should we have to uproot ourselves just for a shot at a decent career in a creative field? Why should we move away from family and familiarity to experience culture and decent public transport? Can we not have that outside of London, too? There is LOTS to say on this subject, going right back to Thatcher’s dismantling of northern industry and beyond, but that’s a topic for another time. Let’s just say, the decision to live in the north often requires justification, and I think that’s straight up BS.
My last reason is my most straightforward and my most compelling – I’m a pretty homely person, and I love being near my family. I can’t imagine moving hundreds of miles away, unless it was to America (hey Manhattan, I’m still waiting for your call).
I feel very strongly that the north will only start to challenge London in terms of jobs, culture, investment, etc, if we stay and build our lives here. So that’s what I’m doing, and that’s why I don’t live in London.
How about you?