Going Underground in London: Scene and The City

When you’re bored of Big Ben and you’ve been for a spin on the London Eye, look under the carpet for the real London

When you’re bored of Big Ben and you’ve been for a spin on the London Eye, look under the carpet for the real London

London is the eternal misfit’s paradise. Beyond the suits of Canary Wharf and the plentiful attractions brimming with tourists lies a road less traveled. The alternative scene in London sets the global standards of cool and unique. The desire to be different transcends the boundaries of music and style to everyday life, art, performances, nightlife and food. Pioneered in the seventies by punk?rock outfits like the Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones the thirst to go against the grain has never been more visible than in modern day London.

The place to go for all things indie is undoubtedly Camden Town. Thriving with hippies, rockers, skaters and every other social group imaginable, Camden emits an aura of common acceptance. A trip to the renowned market is a must; witty t-shirts and kooky sunglasses can be yours at a steal if you’re willing to haggle with the Del Boy-esque vendors. The food quarter is the battleground where vendors of many and varied nationalities thrust samples to unsuspecting passersby in an attempt to gain custom. The offerings are usually quite generous and appetising so for those on a budget a quick lap of the stalls results in a cheap lunch. Camden is a shockingly colourful town and art meets the eye at every corner. One artist who seems to be adopted at the Camden Market is the now critically acclaimed “Banksy.” His graffiti makes unique use of stencils, and his work adorns walls on many of London’s streets. In many ways the artist personifies the alternative aspect of London; his use of an alias and his belligerent resistance to authority (he once hung his version of the Mona Lisa, complete with smiley face in the Louvre) epitomise the rebel spirit of many Londoners. One of London Walks’ walking tours is an ideal way to see his work which can also be viewed at the Lazarides Gallery on Greek Street in Soho.

On the subject of weird and wonderful art disrupting the accepted status quo is Martin Creed’s Work No.850, exhibited in the Tate Britain. The concept is to frantically sprint through the neo-classical sculpture galleries at 30-second intervals mixed intermittently with 30 seconds to appreciate the exhibitions. Described by the Tate director as ‘reassessing a mundane activity’. The 2001 Turner Prize winner has produced a thoroughly enjoyable and exhilarating experience for participants as well as a great way to spend a bizarre afternoon.

Approaching evening time in London one encounters a vast array of shows and gigs. Secret Wars, which pits two graffiti artists against each other in 90-minute master classes, are held regularly in secret locations such as Juno Bar in Shoreditch. The winner receives £500, a foosball table and a Sega Mega Drive… only in London.

Nightlife in the city is the jewel in Alternative London’s crown. For a true rock n’ roll experience Astoria 2, conveniently located on Charing Cross Road, is a no frills metal venue. Buy your cans in there (who needs glasses?) and rest content in the knowledge that you’re standing where Nirvana, Radiohead, David Bowie and Black Sabbath have all played. Another option to see music legends is The End nightclub in Bloomsbury, where you can check out London’s superstar DJs. Although tricky to find, The End is well worth the trek for a true London Underground experience. Next stop is the infamous Fabric where hordes of youths clad in neon let loose, still a bit peeved that they were born at the conservative end of the 80s. Its three rooms vary from Techno to Indie to RnB, with Room 1 featuring the unique “Bodysonic Floor” which emits the thumping bass of the playing track. This is a revellers’ nirvana and is guaranteed to satisfy frenzied party-goers into the wee hours. The inevitable downsides are the over-eager bouncers and the £15 entry fee — those on a budget may want to take a rain check. After a tiring night in Fabric there’s only one thing you need for breakfast, Egg. Voted “Best London club” in its first year, Egg opens from 4am on Saturday night and closes at 2pm on Sunday afternoon. With a much smaller capacity, as well as hammocks and beanbags galore, Egg is the ideal end to a frantic day.

London is the world’s biggest college campus. Grasp the opportunity to languish in the bohemian spirit and let yourself go — only in London can one experience such a vast array of cultures. In Banksy’s immortal words: “Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a fucking sharp knife to it.”