Wednesday, 7 January 2015

London centric or London sceptic? Why does everyone flock to London?

I watched a documentary, Mind The Gap not so long ago, which discussed the idea that Britain is becoming polarised as London continues to blossom economically and demographically yet the rest of the UK continues to struggle after the financial crash. It made me think about one of the most frustrating aspects of being an entrepreneur these days and one who works from home, which is the continuing concern that I need to be in London, but should it really matter where I work?

Why does everyone flock to London? It isn't just us Brits migrating into the city but also foreign investors.

Google are setting up their UK head quarters in London but why not Birmingham or Edinburgh? For me to answer that question I only have to ask myself, would I want to live in Birmingham or Edinburgh instead of London if I had the choice. No I wouldn't. Not because Edinburgh or Birmingham are not great cities but because my decision is compounded by the fact that everyone else is in London. It has become a vicious circle. Even just having a London post code attached to a business address can make the difference for a company's success just because people want you to be in London. I have lost count of the business calls my husband has received that ask, are you in London? Neither of us see why we should or need to be in London.

I always remember back in my twenties thinking that if I can just get a job in London then I'm sorted for life as a web designer just because it looks good on the cv, and indeed it seemed true. Any company that saw I had worked in London seemed impressed, but it doesn't mean I'm better than anyone else based on that fact alone.

And does not being based in London make my business any less desirable? Do I somehow not have the mindset that can compete with other London designers or entrepreneurs, purely because I am not based in London? Does seeing sheep outside my window instead of high rise offices really make all that difference? Do people even consider these things? Probably, subconsciously but it is daft and I think a lot of businesses outside of the UK are being put aside or just plain ignored purely based on this fact.

And for some reason this seems to be a British phenomenon with our 'one hub' mind-set. Facebook and Microsoft for example are not based in New York yet when setting up in the UK, it has to be London. Many people who work in London don't even live in London, many travel as far from Lincolnshire or Wales, even France! It seems crazy with modern technology that we can't live and work from the top of a mountain somewhere and conduct business yet somehow people are still being drawn to London and in ever increasing numbers. I would imagine it is a mix of wanting to be in the hub of it and having to be in the hub of it, but what is a hub and why does it matter?

When I lived in London back in my twenties I hated the rat race. The commute was a nightmare, it cost a fortune to live there and I was often scared of traveling back home late on the endless trains and underground, but maybe this is something that supposedly makes me a better designer. It doesn't and I hope that one day Britain can take a leaf out of Japan's book for example who regenerate more than just one city in its boundaries with modern skylines and good infrastructure. If London is the financial back-bone these days of the UK think how amazing our country could be if other cities also became the back-bone, why limit ourselves?

If I suddenly had a London post code would it mean I was suddenly 'cool'? "Hey, she's in London, she must be good!". No, being in London doesn't make me good, my design eye makes me good, my skills make me good, my experience makes me good, and that design eye wants to look at sheep, not smog.

It's only going to flood in years to come anyway, lucky we have lots of engineers and designers living outside of London to hopefully save it.

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