dark little country
The problem with defining a “cool” neighborhood is that cool is subjective: it means different and often contradictory things depending on who you ask. For what it’s worth, my definition would be based on a high concentration of beautiful, well-dressed people; bars and clubs that are open late and play good music, and some sort of creative scene or cultural vitality. To some less enlightened people, however, cool is synonymous with “candle”, “upscale”, or vaguely “quirky”.
Free timeit is listing of the 51 Coolest Neighborhoods in the World – based on a survey of 20,000 people and released earlier this week – refers to all of these definitions. Four British neighborhoods stood out (in Margate, Glasgow, London and Manchester), none of which seem to have anything in common. If they are “cool”, they are so in disparate ways. But what do the inhabitants of these places think? Dazed spoke to some of them to find out.
This beachfront area was rated the eighth coolest neighborhood in the world. In Europe, only that of Lisbon Cais do Sodre was deemed hipster – which, while I’m sure Cliftonville is lovely, seems overkill. Long acting as a retirement community for London’s aging hipsters lured by its cheap rents, Margate has been advertised as “Hackney-on-sea” – but now, according to Free timehe finally overcame his east London rival.
“Generally speaking there’s some cool stuff going on in Margate,” says local resident Stuart, while noting that some of the places mentioned by Free time are “awesome but not cool in any way”. He also says gentrification is a growing problem in the area, caused in part by Airbnb’s withdrawal of apartments from the market. “There’s a huge turnover of companies: people come from London, do it a bit for fun and then don’t care,” he says. “It feels quite transient.”
Benny, a former resident of Cliftonville, bristles at his description as the coolest place in Britain. “It’s the fourth poorest ward in all of England and Wales,” he says. “It’s a mixture of communities, extreme destitution and extremely rapid gentrification, in a way that doesn’t work well: it collides.” Although there are plenty of cafes and delis and it’s becoming more and more LGBTQ-friendly (it’s home to a new queer venue, CAMP, which is mentioned in the Time Out article), Benny thinks portraying Cliftonville as a hipster’s paradise ignores the issues facing the region.
There is no doubt that Glasgow is one of the coolest cities in the UK and deserves to be acclaimed as such. But Shawlands specifically? That’s a different question.
For the uninitiated, Shawlands is an area of Glasgow’s Southside, a rapidly gentrifying corner of the city famous for its multiculturalism, abundant greenery and queer cafe drama. But many Glasgow residents I spoke to insisted that nearby Govanhill would have been a better choice. “It’s the uncool middle-class neighbor of Govanhill,” says Matt, a Glasgow resident who has known Shawlands as a leafy middle-aged suburb for as long as he can remember. “It’s basically where cool young Southsiders move to start families and get uncool.” On the plus side, he concedes, “Morrison’s has great discounts there” – a handy tip that travel guides won’t tell you.
Emma, who lived on the Southside until recently, is equally negative. “I’m not surprised at all that Shawlands only made the list after being besieged by English people who can no longer pay rent in London,” she exclaims. “I would say it’s not even in the top 11 coolest neighborhoods in Glasgow.” I could surely find a Glasgow who would accept the listing of Shawland, without going so far as to speak to someone who actually lives there? “Maybe it’s cool if you’re an old millennial who likes to line up for bread at 9 a.m. every weekend, or if you’re the kind of person who still uses the word ‘hipster’ to refer to Sailor Jerry’s flannel shirts and flash tattoos,” Jemma says. sorry Free timebut the people of Glasgow – all three – have spoken: you are wrong.
Walthamstow is a multicultural and diverse area, but when it comes to people who have moved there over the past decade, they tend to fall into one of two demographic categories: posh heterosexual couples in their 40s who have well-paid jobs in the third sector. , or former Shoreditch socialites who sold their shares in VICE and moved there to start a family when they turned 35. I can take or leave the latter group, but I admit I find the former rather ambitious – I’d love to steal their lives, Talented Mr. Ripley-style. I also think Walthamstow is a lovely place (a stroll through its desolate but strikingly beautiful marshes followed by a visit to the William Morris Gallery? If Carlsberg spent days in London!) But maybe that’s “cool” is not the right word, exactly.
Calum, who lives in Walthamstow, tells me he’s not surprised it’s considered such a cool place. “It still feels affordable compared to a lot of London, it has lots of green space, great cycling infrastructure, and good bars and pubs,” he says. “Walthamstow is what Stoke Newington thinks it is.” For Calum, part of the appeal is that the area has retained a real sense of community: he knows his neighbors and the people who work in his local shops; people say hello to each other on the street. “When I moved to Walthamstow in 2012, people told me it was a good thing it was on the Victoria Line because it made it easier to move on,” he says. “Walthamstow was cool too, but people couldn’t see it. Now they are finally catching up.”
Manchester is, like Glasgow, an undeniably cool city: it’s fun and exciting and there’s a lot going on. But the North Quarter? Every week, a terrible new novelty is launched there and causes widespread derision on the Internet: there is a bar that looks like a Blockbuster video store; a pawnshop-like bar; a bar where you can play old-school video games; a bar where you can play table tennis; a cafe where you can buy waffles shaped like genitals.
The North Quarter is set to become the Shoreditch of the early 2010s: a twee, infantilized playground of Instagram trappings aimed at “people who want something a little different”, when what they want should want is a half decent boozer. According to local resident Tom, the writing has been on the wall for a long time. “The real problem is that it doesn’t look like an area with dozens of individual bars: it looks like the same bar with a different tired gadget slapped across the front,” he told Dazed. “I haven’t been to the Blockbuster, but this seems the worst offender – just the same beers and cocktails you’d get anywhere, but with a really half-crazy novelty element.”