Should creative people move to London to seek their fortune? Or would we all be better off outside the M25?
I came to London because I heard that the streets were paved with gold. When I came I learned three things: streets in London are not paved with gold, they’re not paved at all and I am expected to pave them.
Well, okay, that’s not quite true. There are pavements in London; they’re mostly paved with sick and discarded chicken boxes. But, if you’re moving to the capital to make your creative fortune you may well be expected to pave your way through bar work and crippling rents. So, is it always such a good idea to make like Dick Wittington and head London-wards?
Andrew Brown, Creative Director at Brass agency, which is based across Leeds and London, is prosaic about the challenges facing so-called regional creatives: “There are simply fewer agencies doing blue chip client work outside of London. That's not to say you can't do amazing creative work anywhere in the country – you can. But if you're looking to work on the big budget accounts, with global brands your mum might have heard of, then there's more opportunity in the capital.”
Natalie Querol, co-Director of Newcastle-based theatre development agency The Empty Space, also argues that regional creatives can’t afford to ignore London altogether. “If you want to be an actor then I’d probably say there is a career in the North East, but it will be working with the same few companies again and again. If you’ve got broader ambitions then London is probably the place to be.
“However, if you want to make work, which is really what we support, then there are many good reasons for staying in the North East. The cost of living is phenomenally cheap, it’s much easier to get support and money from the Arts Council because there is less competition and you can make those first connections very easily."
However, just because it (sometimes) pays to be in London, don’t think you have to be based in the capital full time. “If we were going to work with the best brands we needed to show that a trip down the M1 was no issue for us,” explains Andrew, who has a satellite office in Shoreditch. “Our standard line has been that can take two hours to get to London from Leeds on the train – less time than it can take people to get across London. But, being able to say to clients ‘Why don't you meet us in Shoreditch?’ proves really handy.”
“You need to be making some connections in London,” agrees Natalie. “That might mean going down for a couple of years, or finding a way to be based in both places.”
Of course, the internet has opened the entire world up to creative collaboration. You can now have meetings via Skype, share your portfolio across social networks like IdeasTap and LinkedIn and build up a creative base through Twitter and blogs. Not to mention those ever-beeping smart phones.
Natalie – who herself moved from the south coast, to Warwick, to the north-east, to London and then back to the north-east – argues that isolation is partly a state if mind. “In the north-east there is a perception that everything else is far away; although it’s not. It takes an hour and a half to go to the Edinburgh festival.”
So, whether you come to London to capitalise your career, or stay outside of the M25 for good, be prepared to put your back in to it.
Are you considering the big move to London? Have you made the change and come out on top? Have you had a capital disaster and returned to the regions? Whatever your story, we want to hear your opinion in the comments box below.
This June, The Empty Space will bring two shows – Hand-me-Down and Heartbreak Soup – to the Tristan Bates Theatre in London. To accompany the season, Empty Space is offering free workshops giving support and advice for London-based artists who are thinking of heading Up north. If you’re interested, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about Brass Agency visit their website or follow them on Twitter.
Pearly King & Queen by Hey Mr Glen available by CC BY-NC License © 2008, Glen Scott