Dating a vegan may come with negative stereotypes and a bad rap. From being ‘too annoying’, to having a ‘dull diet’. Veganism can be a restrictive diet, not only in the sense of meat but also dairy, eggs etc., as all animal products are off limits. However, veganism has been on the rise and within the last decade is has grown 360 per cent in the UK alone.
Joshua, 24, decided to become a vegan for moral and health reasons after watching a lecture by Gary Yourofsky called the most important speech you will ever hear. “I decided to be vegan in 2015, my family from Brazil they showed me the lecture and by the end of it I was like why am I eating meat?” says Joshua. The lecture covers ‘everything’ and gives an insight on the benefits of being vegan not only environmentally but also for personal health.
“It’s now common knowledge that there’s a certain amount of pus and blood allowed in milk.”, he then adds. According to the Animal Aid, a litre of milk can have up to 400,000,000 somatic cells (pus cells) before it is considered unfit for people to drink.
However, it is not necessarily easy to just switch to veganism overnight. It can for some be a challenge. Especially for someone like Joshua, whose family is Brazilian, where their food culture is heavily meat based. “I grew up in south London and chicken is a massive part of that culture, so my diet was chicken and chips for my whole up until to that point, and then one day I was okay I’m not going to eat meat anymore.”
If Joshua was more ‘introverted’, he would have struggled in the dating scene as a vegan but he was verbal about his dietary and his views. “When I first became vegan, I was vocal but I was also vocal about a lot of my views, whereas now I’ve just hit the point where I’m aware that people can be stubborn and really set in their ways.”, he says.
With the rise of vegans in the UK, meeting people who are vegan or even vegetarian has become more common compared to 2015 when Joshua first became vegan. “A lot more people in our generation are becoming vegetarian and vegan, so the people I’m meeting tend to be vegetarians.” However, for someone who’s more of a shy vegan would be the ‘altercations’ or the ‘backlash’ they would face. “It’s a fun talking point for some people. It can get tiring.”
According to a study done by EliteSingles vegans are more likely to go on a date with a meat-eater with the figures showing 82% and with 72% would begin a serious relationship with a meat-eater. Whereas, when the tables are turned only 69% of meat-eaters would be willing to go on a first date with a vegan and 61% will be open to a serious relationship.
Although Joshua’s girlfriend is a vegetarian, he is a part of the 72% who will still be happy to be in a relationship if she were to be a meat-eater. “The main issue with dating a meat-eater would be to do with morals. The big thing for veganism is you have certain morals with how people are treating animals and the whole industry. Where a meat-eater may not be aware of those things or doesn’t care so then it becomes a whole thing of having severely different morals and that could become and issue.” Joshua says.
From the old ages to our modern-day society, the dating scene has revolved around eating out; dinner dates, chocolates, coffee in the morning or even brunch. Finding a partner who has similar values or even finding a place to eat together can be a challenge for vegan couples. “Before we go and sit down anywhere, we have to look at the menu and make sure there are vegan options”, says Joshua.
Compared to when Joshua first became a vegan, restaurants and eating out places have evolved in regards to having vegan options on their menus. In those five years alone, veganism has impacted the food industry. “There are now places which are specifically catering to veganism, or restaurants are at least adding a few vegan options on their menus.”
However, dinner dates are not the only thing that change after you become vegan, chocolate is also a massive part of the dating culture. “Now there is an alternative to chocolate, there is a bar called Vego Bar and it tastes like Nutella in a chocolate bar, but it’s completely vegan and it’s incredible.” Dark chocolates are also an option where it’s just naturally vegan.
London in general has a massive chicken culture, however, the impact veganism had on the food industry speaks volume as now there are multiple chicken shops which are primarily aimed for vegans. Some of the restaurants are: Temple of Seitan which known to be one of London’s vegan fast food restaurant, and another popular restaurant is the Chick’nrestaurant on Baker Street.
There aren’t drastic changes to the dating scene regardless if you’re a meat-eater or a vegan. However, with food playing a big role within the dating scene it can still be an obstacle. “Only thing that has changed is food really. Going to restaurant, just making sure there are vegan options. I wouldn’t say being a vegan has a massive impact on your dating life any more than it does on your personal life.”
“People participate in arts by going to galleries, listening to music, watching movies but refuse to recognise the extent of the importance of the arts sector. They want to consume it; however, they don’t want to fund it because they believe it’s not really needed.” Says Amy, 21, a fine arts student from London.
Earlier this month Rishi Sunak appeared on ITV New saying “I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis”, showing no regard to UK night life and arts. A government-backed advert was trending on social media, where it was encouraging creatives to ‘rethink and reskill’ and take a new career path in cybersecurity. The ad has since been removed after the arts world was shaken with backlash by many creatives and criticism by the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, who labelled it as ‘crass’ and distanced his department from the campaign.
The CyberFirst campaign ad which promotes cyber security jobs for young people around the ages 11 to 17. The ad illustrates a ballet dancer named ‘Fatima’ with the text reading; “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet),” Followed with the slogan “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.” However, it instead set off a series of backlash by creatives. Many who felt ‘angry’ and ‘frustrated’ with the governments’ stance on the arts industry.
‘#Fatima’ was trending on twitter, with people defending the arts and suggesting the government should instead support the art industry and creatives to follow their talent and dreams.
Night time economy adviser for greater Manchester also portrayed his criticism on twitter reading; “Today, the Chancellor has said musicians and others in the arts industry should look for another job. That includes your favourite DJ… If you like to go to nightclubs/events/festivals, just remember this when we are through it. They are killing off our scene.”
Kema, 26, a youth worker from oxford, “it just shows how detached they [the government] are if they can’t recognise the importance of arts. Not only as an industry but also for people’s mental health. I work with kids and teach them rap, and I can say to them ‘hey look you’re not doing well in school but we can put you on this rap programme, with an alternative education’ because the education system doesn’t fit and work for everyone. This is a way for the kids to express themselves, be heard and earn money.”
“It’s horrible, you work so hard towards something and it’s not like it’s a hobby where you just stop playing video games.” Says Harvey, 25, a musician from Brighton. “Working in the arts and putting on events is so much more than just a livelihood, this is what you want to do, you work hard for it and being told to rethink your whole life is absurd.”
“I spelt FUDGE with my GCSE’s, I got F in English, U in another exam, D in science, G in drama and E in PE, so my parents were well proud.” He said jokingly. “But my parents were proud when I was playing on stages at festivals in Croatia. I do something I love.”
Dowden tweeted; “I want to save jobs in the arts which is why we are investing £1.57bn” This will include theatres, museums, orchestras and music venues to help reopen. However, the UK’s music industry is worth £5.2 billion a year and the nightlife bring £66 billion for the country. The art industry contributes to the country’s economy more than automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined.
Freelancers and independent creatives struggled to sustain themselves even before Covid-19, and post lockdown their livelihood has not been ‘taken seriously’ by the government. Freelancers and independent creatives feel like they’ve been ‘thrown under the bus’, where in some cases, had to move out due to being unable to pay for rent.
Matt, 34, music producer from Brighton says, “With sports nothing has happened to it, people can’t go and watch football, but it’s still carrying on and they are still playing in the premiership but no one has asked them to retrain.”
“I’ve always worked and balanced myself as an artist, and it can become extremely demanding.”
“Artists who do commissions have a fixed hourly rate and then there are people who beg them to do it for a lower price. It’s actually humiliating to artists, no one sees the time, effort and amount of work that actually goes into what we do. It shows ignorance towards the art sector.” Says Amy.
“Other people whose jobs are in jeopardy are not being told to rethink, they can treat it as an important job as anyone else’s job, show some respect. It is mainly focused on people who are in the arts.” Says Harvey.
Johnny Turner fell tragically while climbing a block of flats in central London. He was 23, and leaves behind an impressive body of photography.
ALL PHOTOS BY JOHNNY TURNER.
Johnny Turner was a talented free runner and photographer. He had a special “touch” when landing his jumps, balancing elegantly on thin rails or walls almost without making a sound. He also loved London’s architecture – from train lines to abandoned construction sites to tower blocks and housing estates – and photographed it obsessively. Johnny was able to combine these two passions in urban exploration, an activity that took him to parts of the capital most people never see.
“He was the type of person who would just ride his bike and do parkour so naturally, he came across these environments from an early age,” says Will, a friend of Johnny’s. “He grew up in Balham in south London, so he’s always been around places like Stockwell, Brixton, Clapham. I think that’s why he drew a connection with this type of architecture.”
In September 2019, Johnny fell to his death when climbing a block of flats in Waterloo. He was 23 years old.
Urban exploration, also referred to as “urbex”, is the practice of entering or climbing a city’s uncharted buildings. It could be the top of a block of flats, an abandoned building site or in the case of Bradley L Garrett, who scaled the Shard in 2012 and brought the often nocturnal activity into the spotlight, one of its most iconic skyscrapers. Many “explorers” take photos of the views they encounter, often sharing on social media. London-based urban explorer Harry Gallagher, also known as @night.scape, has more than 240k followers on Instagram and posts shots from the sides of buildings and inside tunnels. Ally Law has earned over 3 million subscribers on Youtube with his urbex videos, and once broke into the Big Brother house. Viral videos of urban climbers like Vadim Makhorov and Vitaliy Raskalov, who run the YouTube channel On The Roofs, have also brought the activity to the mainstream. The hashtag “urbex” now has over 7.5 million entries on Instagram.
Like any extreme sport, urban exploration carries certain risks. Depending on the kind of building an explorer decides to climb, floors can be unsafe or even collapse, while bad weather conditions leave scaffolding wet and slippery. Abandoned buildings are littered with trip hazards that may be impossible to see in the dark, when many urban exploration missions take place. Entering a building without permission can also be considered trespassing, and in some cases punishable by law.
Roman, another of Johnny’s friends, says that he knew the risks involved with urban exploration and was respected within the community. “If you do it [urban exploring], it’s not necessarily dangerous, because with everything you do, there’s always calculated risks,” he says. “You’re not going to take a risk you know you’re not ready for.”
TWO TOWER BLOCKS IN STOCKWELL, SOUTH WEST LONDON, NEAR WHERE JOHNNY GREW UP.
Johnny leaves behind a fascinating body of photography that shows London from a completely new perspective. One photo centres on two tower blocks in Stockwell, not far from where Johnny grew up. Another was taken on the Golden Lane housing estate, which he used to describe as the “hat” on top of the block. He also photographed the Wyndham and Comber estate in Camberwell, a popular training spot for parkour that featured in the music video for Goldie’s “Inner City Life” – his favourite song.
“Johnny found beauty in the grittiness of tower blocks,” says Will.
Johnny’s goal was to document these buildings before they disappeared. According to a study from the London Assembly, redevelopment projects between the years 2004 to 2014 led to a drop in social housing, and a huge increase in private housing. Many council estates and tower blocks that were not listed buildings were demolished. The most famous of these is the Heygate Estate, a housing estate in south London made up of more than 1,200 homes that was demolished between 2011 and 2014 as a part of a redevelopment plan for the Elephant and Castle area.
THE “HAT” JOHNNY DESCRIBED ON THE TOP OF THE GOLDEN LANE HOUSING ESTATE.
“Johnny loved seeing the world from up there,” Roman says. “Maybe not 24/7 but 23/6, he was out there [exploring].”
It wouldn’t be unusual for Roman’s phone to ring at 2 AM and for it to be Johnny’s number. He would answer and listen to his friend enthuse about cycling to east London to “check out a new spot.” Sometimes, though, it was a struggle for Roman to keep up with Johnny. “He was the king of the blocks,” he says. Johnny’s friends hope to one day show his photos in an exhibition.
Johnny loved urban exploration despite the risks. But what is it about seeing London from often dangerous viewpoints that can be so inspiring? “For different people, it’s different reasons but the biggest one is simply that they are extremely beautiful and striking and carry a very powerful aesthetic experience,” says Barnabas Calder, an architecture historian from the University of Liverpool and author of the book Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism.
Calder adds that London’s council housing is also interesting from a social history point of view. “Its [aim] was to improve the housing of ordinary people, and bring up the lowest standard of housing to the highest quality, in terms of technical performance and quantity of housing available.”
For Roman, urbex is about more than just a beautiful photo or even a building’s purpose. “As much as it’s about getting the view and sights it’s also a mission,” he says. “It’s a journey.”
Pedro, another friend of Johnny’s, sums up why he thinks Johnny loved urban exploration.
“For Johnny, it wasn’t about being on a roof and doing dangerous things – despite what people may think,” he says. “It wasn’t even close to that. His passion was to document the constantly changing city.”
“Living on a houseboat becomes this force that makes you live a sustainable lifestyle.”
Millicent Beesley and her partner Juliano Chapon have been living on a houseboat for only two months, but even in this short period of time, it’s visibly noticeable the changes it has brought into their life approach. It started off as a joke, and it later then became reality. “He told me I was a nutter when I mentioned I wanted to go for a houseboat viewing,” says Millie while laughing. Living on a houseboat is a change to your whole attitude towards your life, and not only beneficial to a minimalistic lifestyle and being close to nature but it also benefits the environment itself. “There’s a lot of things that come with the boat lifestyle, which we weren’t aware of but was very appealing to us” says Juliano.
Although the financial side is a big bonus, there are certain aspects of a boat lifestyle that attracted the couple. It’s living a minimal life; living with less stuff and consuming no more than they need or have to. “We are both engineers and our daily work is to figure out ways to deal with consuming less energy, such as designing a building that has less embodied carbon. This is a massive issue, perhaps the biggest issue of our generation. Everyone can – to an extent – buy and consume a lot less living in a flat, but when you’re living in a boat you are more forced to do it” explains Juliano.
“This is a massive issue, perhaps the biggest issue of our generation.”
Living in a developed G7 country does make it difficult to live a sustainable lifestyle, people can very easily and unknowingly fall into the trap of constant consumption, from buying a new phone to buying new clothes to simply forgetting to switch the lights off and showering every day, and then all of a sudden you’re killing the planet. “Living on a houseboat then becomes this force that makes you live a sustainable lifestyle,” explains Juliano while Millie nods her head in agreement. This lifestyle change does not only apeal for Millie and Juliano but to many other houseboat residents as well.
Things that influence how to live a sustainable lifestyle is consumption, from the amount of plastic is bought, to how much water is used to even how much energy is consumed in someone’s everyday life. “When we got our first electricity bill it was about 200 kilowatts which is very small for a month consumed by two people. Compared to when I was living on my own in my house, I would consume up to a thousand kilowatts a month. So, I consumed five times more just to live. It doesn’t stop with electricity, because water is the same thing. We don’t realise it but just with flushing the toilet, so much drinkable water is used to simply wash our poo” Juliano says while laughing.
There’s energy spent in making the water potable, in other words to make it drinkable and there’s energy used to move it out into a water treatment plant and also to move it back to form it into drinkable water again. Therefore, all of this infrastructure that we need, which is important, because that is how we understand society requires a lot of energy. “It’s not the main reason why we chose to live on a boat, we are not eco warriors, but it does certainly make you feel better about the life choices and the decisions we make.”
Living on a boat – as everyone can imagine – can be very cramped up and Millie explains how, you become more aware of what you buy, and having less to choose from throws you into the deep end of consuming less. You become more conscious about what you will be able to fit into the boat and what you really need, and thus luxury becomes less of a priority. “As weird as it sounds, I’ve basically got a different head on my head when I go into shops now.”
Shopping and buying new things do have a positive mental impact on people, but when you don’t have any space, it doesn’t make you feel sad but rather happy that you don’t need to deal with the hassle of trying to find or make space for all these unnecessary things. “it’s almost like we’ve moved choice” says Millie.
“I was so foreign to the idea that people actually lived on boats, it blew my mind.”
Although living on a houseboat is eco-friendly, the lifestyle however may not be the right choice for everyone. A houseboat has certain aspects that needs to be thought about that no one would need to put second thought into or even consider if they were to live in a normal house. Juliano, comes from a country where narrow boats do not exist, brazil, and he describes his experience as “I was so foreign to the idea that people actually lived on boats, it blew my mind.”
He believes there are certain subtle things that come with the houseboat lifestyle that can be off putting and unnecessary for most. Therefore, there needs to be a certain type of desire and love for the lifestyle. “There are couple of things you have to think about that you normally wouldn’t, like refilling you water tank, and emptying the toilet. Things that you don’t have to do in a normal property” explains Millie as she stirs her coffee and laughs. Only have lived in a houseboat for a couple months, the couple are still learning and adapting their daily routine to this new lifestyle they have chosen for themselves. “We only just figured out winter,” jokingly explains Juliano.
In contrary to the ‘negative’ aspects, moving into a boat is almost like switching communities and living in a village in the middle of London. “We’re in a community, everybody knows each other, and we keep the mooring rent reduced by organising it in a way where the landlord has to talk with one person who was voted for within this community, and that person represents the whole mooring.” Having a lifestyle choice in common with somebody creates an automatic bond, even if it is with a complete stranger.
It would be difficult if someone was to move into a houseboat purely for financial ease, as there’s so much that will be incorporated into your daily life, it’s very like to frustrate you if you don’t necessarily enjoy it and it becomes more of an inconvenience rather than a daily norm.
Regardless of the lifestyle, financial aspects do play a huge role in whether somebody is willing to give up a luxurious lifestyle to an eco-friendlier one. It is a commonly known fact that the house prices, even just renting, is ridiculously expensive in London, thus a lot of Londoners have resorted in either moving towards outer London, or guardianship homes or for a more close-to-nature lifestyle chose to live on a houseboat.
Many could argue buying a ‘normal’ house is far wiser than spending all the savings in your bank account on a boat, however it is definitely a lot cheaper. Especially when a £450k house is considered to be a reasonable and affordable price in London. Whereas a good condition houseboat price can differ between (depending on the size) £50k to £100k, which is still reasonably a lot cheaper compared to a normal property
However, that is not to say that living in a houseboat is completely cheap but is definitely the cheaper option. According to 2017 studies it has shown that there is approximately 60 per cent rise in registered boats. There are over ten thousand people living on a houseboat all across London.Moorings have never been this busy in London, and they’re struggling with water quantities. For those who are familiar with how locks work, every time someone uses a lock, a lot of water is lost from the system, and because there are so many boats moving through locks – due to the fact that people are choosing to live on houseboats – this means some locks are closed for weeks just to hold back the water.
The annual living cost can vary depending on the type of boat you own, if you want a mooring location or prefer on the move, the mooring location itself, Fuel, insurance, boat safety certificate and boat licence, general routine maintenance. Mooring prices varies depending on location if you are closer or in central London, then it will be a lot more expensive. But on average the mooring price is £2,000. This also indicates, as you are considered to be a resident, you will be paying council tax.
There is also a cheaper option to mooring, which is being on the move and only paying for a moving licence, where you would be moving your boat along the canal every couple week. Although, just like everything there is a downside to this, you don’t have a postcode, therefore this may mean saying goodbye to applying for a bank account or any form of credit.
Regardless if you are mooring or on the move every boat owner needs a boat licence where the cost differs from £510 to £1,100 per year, and this cost depends on the length size of your houseboat. Compared to a normal house a houseboat is exposed to not only more harsh weather conditions but also the risk of accidents and damage. Therefore, as well as the licence, insurance is a for a houseboat, which is about £200.
However, regardless of the financial aspects or the eco-friendly lifestyle, the couple are both thrilled to be living on a houseboat. They’re happy to expand their family and continue to life on a boat if they were to have kids. “How fun would it be to grow up on a boat. As a child it would be wonderful.” Although living in a normal property with a child would be a lot easier and safer. “It’s fine if you were to drop your groceries in the water, but you can’t drop your child.” Most houseboat residents would rather prioritise the safety of their child and thus, more likely to move to a normal house if they were to have kids, and Millie and Juliano agree on this.
The short period of time Millie has lived in a houseboat has changed her thoughts and approach towards consumption, and space for the better. “If I was to live in a normal house again, my attitude towards it would be different.” Living on a houseboat does make you more conscious in regards to consumerism and the environmental impacts it has.
Londoners are obsessed with property prices and finding the cheapest way to live, therefore, there are many Londoners who choose to live on a houseboat for a more affordable lifestyle. However, for someone who find comfort in what we consider a ‘normal lifestyle’ is to an extent a luxury, therefore moving to a houseboat purely on financial reasons will most definitely be a challenge. Millie and Juliano both who have a fairly above average income can easily afford a property, however, their main goal was the sustainable, minimalistic lifestyle and getting away from the consumerism trap that a lot of people who live in a developed country fall into. Even though, the financial aspects play a huge role in living in a houseboat, the lifestyle change is not for everyone.
“I’ve had more hate from my own race rather than I did from black people,” says 22-year-old Connor Cuttress, a grime artist who goes by his stage name, C Two. The musician is a mere part of a now huge mainstream industry, and has been making music for over a decade, he talks about his struggles and what it is like being a white grime artist within the grime industry. He often reflects this struggle in his own lyrics, such as the song ‘Big for your Boots’ where the lyrics say, ‘C Two’s this, C Two’s that, C Two’s shit, he thinks he’s black.”
“The go to hate speech of white people is C two you’re white, so why are you making black music, why do you believe you’re black. Keeping in mind I actually grew up in a very African orientated community I believe I’m a cultured white man, but my point is I acknowledge grime is black music but that does not mean if you’re a different race and have talent you’re not allowed to make this music, grime is an open, free for all.” The young artist who’s based in Liverpool was raised in a very African populated area, thus having a lot of black friends growing up is what influenced his journey in grime, “it was the year 2008 and I remember we were in the music room in school with my friend and he showed a track on his phone, it was a grime tune and I liked it a lot, the lyrics touched me, when I asked him who it was he said it was him, and then I thought to myself, if he could do it why can’t I? My journey pretty much started there.”
Born in East London from a mixture of Garage, Dancehall and Drum & Bass music, and entire new genre was created. Grime. When talking about Grime, the idea of Black British culture is a somewhat relative definition. It was a new sound, and the lyrics was influenced purely on self-experience of the artist. Other music that is considered as ‘black music’ such as Hip Hop, Reggae, jazz and blues share similar or even the same elements of grime, so how can we not say that Grime does not belong to the category of ‘black music’. It started off with young boys growing up in tower blocks and rusty council estates. However, since then it certainly has evolved from London pirate radios to the mainstream pop culture of London, reaching a wider audience. But does this mean Caucasian grime artists cannot further their careers within the industry, or is there a stereotype going around as to they’re less likely to be as successful as a black artist. But the main issue is, we are well aware of this topic yet are scared to talk about it. However, as Dan Hancox argues in his book ‘Inner City Pressures the Story of Grime’, “Grime is black music, even if it’s not always made by black people.”
C Two is only a part time artist who is making the most out of his talent, “I am confident in my talent, and I am only doing what I’m good at and that it making beats, making music.” Labelling a music genre as black music certainly does not mean it is purely for black people and blacks only, this is where a lot of people get confused and misunderstand the term, it is simply referring to the fact that people should acknowledge the genres origins, and it does not prohibit anyone from enjoying it or even taking part in it. Children from a very young age are exposed to pop culture, and parents unaware of how it programs them through race and even gender to embed the idea of the role they should play within society. “There’s an idea in society where people assume just because grime is black music that it’s for black people, and I have had more racism from my own race than any other, I’ve had knives pulled at me for just making black music. I am white as snow there’s no denying that, I do look in the mirror, but I certainly do not fit in with them because of the type of music I produce and make.” Says C Two.
Talking about race, and talking about the issues within the music industry that involves race is not something we should avoid but quite the contrary, we should not be afraid of it as it is not racist to argue about race.
In London it’s that time of the night. Even in a city that never sleeps there is a loophole time when young explorers can camouflage themselves within the shadows to avoid being spotted by passers-by. It’s bitterly cold and wet, but harsh weather is not a reason to pass up the chance to explore the rooftop of a block at the Barbican Centre. It hasn’t been explored before, untouched and waiting for an adventure to happen, it’s an opportunity which rarely comes around.
The outlawed explorers usually wear colourful Nike shoes with a good grip, to climb the rusty ladders, black balaclavas which are nearly as good a mask and black Nike hoodies that cover pretty much everything above shoulders except the eyes, blend in with the darkness but still look stylish for that perfect shot.
Maybe someone who lives in one of the nearby tower blocks near the Barbican woke up for a glass of water at night and, gazing out of their window, glimpsed a figure in black standing on the edge of a nearby building. Maybe they thought little of it, putting it down to an overactive imagination or simple tiredness. However, that crazy figure in black standing on the edge of a building very much exists, and there are more like them. They are ordinary people living double lives – normal nine-to-five worker during the day and an adrenaline lover, urban explorer by night.
Urban exploring – urbex for short – is the exploration of abandoned man-made structures, locations to which the general public would not have access. Climbing rooftops of famous buildings or even something as common as tower blocks is also a part of the game, and photographing and documenting these places plays a crucial role. As an urban explorer myself, believe me when I say that urbexing is a lot more than simply just a hobby. It is an escape, a way of life for those involved.
People have long been attracted and drawn to the mystery behind abandoned places and locations which are not easy to access. The origins of urban exploring date back to the 1970s with a group known as the Suicide Club in San Francisco, who are commonly accepted as the progenitors of modern urban exploration. Over recent years urbex has crept its way up to be one of London’s most desired and appealing mainstream pop culture.
However, fancy skyscrapers in the city are not the only desirable attraction for explorers who also seek out tower blocks in Hackney, Ladbroke Grove, and normal buildings in Shoreditch and even Camden. The ArcelorMittal Orbit, the 114.5-metre observation tower cum sculpture in the Olympic Park in Stratford has also been hit before, as has the West Ham football stadium.
Regardless of how bad the weather conditions make the view of the skyline look finding beauty in the city during the darkest hour of the night is an undeniable part of an urban explorers’ routine. Photography in a way beautifies what we would normally consider ugly if we saw it with our naked eye, and therefore photography simply frames the subject to beautification, and as Susan Sontag says, “nobody ever discovered ugliness through photographs.” Not many have the perks to experience and see the view of London’s skyline from that high up, thus it something to deeply value.
Urban exploration offers different things to different people. “I always liked photography but once I was introduced to urbex that’s when I truly started enjoying it” says the 19-year-old who goes by his Instagram name, ‘Newnotes’. Newnotes was introduced to urban exploration by a friend from school in October 2016. He has a full-time job and says urbex plays a huge role in his life, as a release from all the stress of work. As well, having access to views of London from a perspective which not many people see is something that he values, as well as the social aspect of king like-minded friends for Newnotes, and sharing with them the experiences and the views they get to see and photograph together.
Urban explorer who also lives a double life goes by his Instagram name ‘Kaizen’, he is a 19-year-old full time student and a part time photographer, he was introduced to urban exploring by a friend which then later on led him to go out in the midst of the night more regularly, he values the excitement of urbex. “The freedom that I get and the adrenaline that comes with it; like will we be caught or will we actually make it. I enjoy the uncertainty. And also looking down on people from above them reminds me just how small the world really, and how unimportant most of our worries are and this mindset helps me to relax.”
London and its burgeoning skyscrapers has been a prime playground for urban explorers. The giant blocks in the Canary Wharf financial district have certainly been a particular attraction and some explorers who were caught by police officers have even been banned from the area from 12 to 24 months and will be arrested if they go there. Urban exploring is not a criminal offence but it is a civil one, under the law of trespass. So explorers in London can explore buildings without the fear of being handcuffed and locked up in a cell. Newnotes says, “Every officer you meet is different, some will want to lock you up some will want to see your shots and then take a selfie on the edge.”
Urbex carries real dangers, particularly for younger people who try to emulate more experienced participants but without a proper understanding of the risks, while filming every step of their journey for to post on Instagram and YouTube.
There have been many deaths of explorers over the years. In 2017 a 44-year-old Eric Paul Janssen fell to his death from a ledge on the 20th floor from a luxury hotel in Chicago, reportedly while taking photographs. Christopher Serrano, a 25-year-old New York based explorer who went by the Instagram name ‘Heavy Mind’, died as he attempted to climb onto the roof of an F line train as it passed through Brooklyn. Jackson Coe, 25 who was known for doing backflips on top of skyscrapers was discovered dead at the back of six-floor building in the West Village in Manhattan, New York.
One of the best-known urban explorers on YouTube is Ally Law who has trespassed into the Big Brother House and Thorpe Park, where he climbed a rollercoaster and has also been banned from TV studios and theme parks across most of the UK. Many explorers have strong opinions on him, Mouse, who goes by his Instagram name ‘mousegreen.art’ believes the social media can encourage inexperienced explorers to take dangerous risks. “Ally Law and anyone who are doing these kinds of videos [Urbex YouTube videos] are fucking it for us. I don’t believe making viral videos with no regards for influencing other people is very sensible.”
As urbex has become more popular, the risk has grown of young and vulnerable people copying what they see on social media. Equally, some argue, the videos can be effectively a hand book on how to break into buildings for real criminals. Experienced explorers fear that this will lead to stricter laws and, perhaps, the criminalisation of their hobby. This has led them to a surprising and perhaps paradoxical understanding of the police and their position. Newnotes says: “It is important to always respect the police not just because they’re doing their job but because they’re normal people as much as us. It’s hard to respect someone who wants to arrest you however if you can you’re likely to walk away without any problems. However, the influx of new explorers who do not have this attitude often make the police’s life very hard making the police make more radical decisions.”
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