Remember when Shoreditch was cool? I do.
Admittedly it’s hard to imagine these days after Shoreditch High Street became somehow officially part of Essex and Bankers enjoy their after work drinks between EINE murals and preserved Banksy pieces. Thank you very much Gentrification!
This seems to be the circle of life: Artists make screwed up neighborhoods livable until people with money deem the area “cool” and want a piece of the “creative vibe”. New buildings are build, prices go up, artists move out and city boys and girls can have their Costa Coffee on the now dead and sanitized main street.
Shoreditch has been steamrolled by stag dos and drunken bankers for awhile now but there used to be a time where Shoreditch was the epicenter of cool. Or Hipster Wankery. Depending on which side of the fence you were standing.
Anyways, it was damn fun, OK? Hipsters roamed the streets freely, The Face was still the coolest mag in town and I got wasted with my fellow students in the golden triangle between Jaguar Shoes, Catch 22 and 333Mother.
So as I was strolling through Shoreditch today in 2016, I felt it was time to reminisce a little about the good old times back in 2001 – 2010.
May I be so bold to proclaim without Shoreditch there would be no lusciously bearded Hipsters in Dalston and Hackney Wick these days? When it comes to attract ambitious yet utterly pretentious creative types, nobody really did it like Shoreditch in the early 2000. And in true “ironic” Hipster fashion it didn’t take long until the growing scene started to mock itself.
Hipster pisstake Mockumentary Nathan Barley from 2005 is still as relevant today as it was 11 years ago, putting the finger on all the twattery we still engage in: Self obsession, social media and the search for true meaning.
The first place that I went clubbing to in London was 333 with it’s attached late night dive-bar / meat market “Motherbar”. 333Mother was a haven to students like me: The late license made sure you could drink way past your bedtime and the fun music kept you dancing all night long. I even ended up DJing there, spending many late nights in a haze of Vodka Red Bulls, the massive Disco Ball above the dance floor and spinning a mix of Kitsune records, HipHop 12s and filthy Pop Hits.
Another great thing about 333Mother were the amazingly illustrated monthly listings, taking the piss out of the creatures of the night. Never was clubbing culture more honestly captured than through the illustrations of Elliot Thoburn. Get his great book “The Devils Dandruff Guide to Nightlife”, totally fucking Mexico yeah!?
It later even spawned it’s own fanzine/listings mag, aptly titled “The Shoreditch Twat”. Headed up by Neil Boorman of Sleaze Nation fame, this mag was like a proto-VICE, mocking the beginning Hipster boom whilst being a part of it itself. Oh so “ironic” innit!
So yeah… big up to 333Mother! Since then they revamped the whole building but the Motherbar still remained untouched, ruining the good sleep of the next generation of Shoreditch Twats to come.
Jaguar Shoes and Basement Raves
Not many of the old places are still bearable in Shoreditch, but the one crew that still fights the good fight must be the Jaguar Shoes Collective. I still love going to all the venues they are running, and especially their flagship bar Dreambags Jaguarshoes.
It’s just a great concept: A monthly refit/repaint of the space by an artist or designer that would transform the whole bar with paintings, projections and the odd sculpture. Pretty awesome, as the place would never get dull visually.
JaguarShoes holds many fond memories for me, especially when I managed to secure a DJ gig for me and a mate that came over from Hamburg to visit. Or so I thought! The manager on the night didn’t remember anything about our agreement from the day before, but at least offered us to spin in the basement instead of upstairs in the main area.
This set back turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we managed to turn our DJ set into s sweaty rave downstairs as nobody complained about noise levels or rowdy beats in the basement! One of the best parties I played at to this day… shout out to Dj Felox / Team Hamburg!
The night I didn’t buy a Banksy
Another place that’s still great is the relocated Dragon Bar on the corner of Rivington Street. Just be careful when you run into Dj Chris Read, as Hip Hop ignorance will not be tolerated!
Always tightly connected to the emerging Graffiti and Street Art Scene, the Dragon Bar used to host monthly exhibitions in their old upstairs gallery space in Leonard Street.
In 2002 a small artist called Banksy had his first show at the Dragon Bar and I still remember looking at all the stenciled rats. I felt his stencils looked quite cheap on the plain white canvasses and I preferred his work way more in context on the streets of Shoreditch and Bricklane. So no way would I part for one of his artworks for £300 a pop, right? Who could have predicted the hilariously stellar rise this man and his art would experience! Although I really like his work, I still can’t believe the prices his stuff commands these days.
His NYC takeover video supports my early assessment, still I wouldn’t mind having had a couple of Banksy’s in my possession from back in the days! Ah well… *sobs uncontrollably*
Madonna, late nights and snogging Stormtroopers
Another thing that I found inspiring about the Shoreditch of old was the mix of gay and straight. As the East End was the playground of creative types it just made sense that gay pubs like The George and Dragon became “diluted” with straight folks who were going out with their gay mates and fancied a bit of Glam, Glitter and Gloria Gaynor as well. As my fondness of unashamed pop music is unfortunately well documented I really enjoyed hanging out there every time the straight bars became a bit too bland and predictable.
As late night places were sparse and “The Motherbar” has had it’s time I graduated quickly to the legendary Joiners Arms, hijacking my gay mates by suggesting to go for “one last drink” and inflicting horrible hangovers on them… so let me just say: Thanks Kate! 😉
Both places have been shut down now and I am sure boring pubs will take their place. I loved the time they were around as I always felt welcome there and the music was a lot of fun. Straight bear hug!
Bonus story: The George and Dragon had it’s own brand of resident club kids who dressed outrageously and which took care of playing music on the weekend . Especially a towering slender Blonde rocked the dancefloor many times and I remember getting a drunken snog off her on a packed Friday night. Fast forward a couple of years and it looks like I got Phasma’d… oh my!
More non shit places according to me
Apart from Jaguar Shoes and Dragon Bar, the Village Underground is still doing it’s thing also. Their massive mural wall and rooftop co-working space with the two tube carriages rock!
Once home of Crunchy the Credit Crunch Monster by my friend Ronzo, the rooftop hosted many great BBQs and get togethers. I just hope this landmark will not be bulldozed anytime soon to make place for yet another shitty loft conversion.
Another legendary place I need to mention is Hoxton Square. Not sure how high it’s currently ranking on the Shoreditch Shit-O-Meter but I still have fond memories sitting on this rotten patch of grass during long summer nights drinking cans of Red Stripe.
On Fridays this park could get so rammed that the energetic chatter of the punters could have been heard from miles away, sounding like a swarm of angry Wu Tang Killah Bees! The White Cube gallery used to be just opposite the park too. I bet they still regret painting over that piece Banksy left on their wall…
Some might argue the opening of the 1948 Nike Store in 2008 was high street store chains moving in, yet as I was a massive sneaker head I loved this addition to the area. Especially as they made every efford to get the design of the shop right!
I picked up many rare sneakers from this store and still enjoy popping in there one in awhile to check out the latest kicks!
Here is some pretty Nathan Barley esque video of the opening night for all of you to enjoy… #sunglassesatnight
In the lair of wood and neon
At the end of my stroll I walked past a building I assumed to be the studio of Morag Myerscough and the rest of Supergroup London. As I follow Morag on Instagram and loving her work, I could not resist knocking on the door and saying Hi!
The East is home of some big agencies like Mother, UsTwo and Unit9. Good to see smaller independent creative studios are still working in Shoreditch too!
Lucky for me she was in and after a puzzled look she invited me into the studio where her fellow supergrouper Luke Morgan lend a helping hand to finish work on an upcoming installation.
What can I say, I am a sucker for design, type and bold colours so I felt right at home! Luke and Morag were super friendly and fun and I even got a physical LIKE to take home with me, pretty awesome!
After a great chin wag I was back on my way, heading home to Dalston. Ah Shoreditch! We had a great time! I will miss you…
Now after being all soppy and positive about the area, let’s wrap this piece up with some good old fashioned ranting, shall we?
My top 5 shittiest things in Shoreditch:
1) Essex Bars
You can spot these places from far away: As much neon as humanly possible, a big cocktail jug on display and glitzy crap everywhere that supposed to communicate “quirkiness” and “fun”… ewww!
2) Box Park
Initially people were exited about the promise of a space supporting independent labels, but now this ugly container crapfest sells smiley t-shirts and embroiled caps. Thumbs DOWN!
3) Shoreditch High Street Station
Hey, why don’t we just put a massive ugly grey slab of concrete down and call it a train station? Will work GREAT visually with the awesome Box Park next to it!
4) All new lofts/skyscrapers
Ok I get it. You got money and you like to have a loft close to Bricklane. But is it possible to build something that fits into the area instead of buying into the most bland and boring designed apartment blocks known to man?
5) Street Food Hype
Seriously, how many tents with overpriced Vegan Burgers, southern Chicken Wings and funky Tortilla Wraps do we need? And please stop pretending it’s all so authentic with your stenciled menus on cheap plywood at the entrance and all the wood chip on the floor. No me gusta!
So what do YOU like or hate in Shoreditch? Let me know in the comments or tweet at me @solaris100!