A Gutter Rat in London: Underground Grandeur and Shark Bloodlust
My name is Kat and I like weird and cool shit. I mean, really weird and cool shit. Because I’m sure your facial expressions right now range from “vaguely incredulous” to “unimpressed”, I’ll elaborate: I have a talent for sniffing out the odd and eccentric like a shark does for fresh blood. When I find cool shit (if I was a shark, the equivalent of “cool shit” would entail a hairy dangling leg, or perhaps a plump Caucasian child), I fall into a veritable feeding frenzy of awesome that results in me telling all of my friends (victims) about it in excruciating detail.
I feel this is a good time to explain the secret point to all my inane ramblings — and indeed, the reason for this ridiculously-named column’s cathartic, heaving birth. Hold on to your bootstraps, because here it is: London is literally awash with cool shit. In its graffiti-covered alleyways, its dirty puke-filled gutters, its art student ‘happenings’, its crumbling warehouses and its pirate radio rooftops, this city is pulsating with a chaotic energy that’s both subversive and fascinating.
I’ve been ‘about town’ quite a lot (primarily because I rarely sleep when normal humans do), and the things I’ve seen and heard have been crazy. As you undoubtedly know, this city’s greatest experiences are currently happening under the mainstream’s radar -unreported, recounted through furtive glances, secretive mutterings and half-heard verse. And that’s what makes them so beautiful – from mind-blowing drag/witchhouse/minimal electronic shows in churches to anti-Olympics guerrilla media centres and rooftop occupations to student protest raves to ‘free’ schools held in abandoned buildings to illegal street graffiti installations to furry fetish salons.
It is London’s nurturing of this zest for the underground, the subterranean and the strange that has drawn me (a Canadian, from Vancouver, obsessed with all things digital) to do a postgraduate MSc degree here, in UCL’s new digital anthropology program, studying hacktivist cultures. And it is this city’s street urchin insolence — its churlish snubbing of normative street signs and coherent city planning, its refusal to succumb to the self-satisfied chortles of kinder, cleaner, calmer cities — that has made me proud to be a Londoner.
Throughout the course of this column I’ll share insights and interviews from the oddest events, happenings and gatherings London has to offer. I’ll scuttle and sniff, rat-like, through endless gutters and dungeons in the hopes of revealing exactly what’s so special about this city’s rebellious spirit.
So, if you care to join me in this valiant quest to seek out the best of London’s underground, I present you with a gentleman’s challenge (and I shall get out my monocle and rat-sized evening suit for the occasion). If you hear of any whisperings of odd new nights, events, artist showings, techie salons or music sessions, share them with me via (twitter) or email. I’ll credit your guidance in return whilst buying you a cheap drink — and I promise that, all signs to the contrary, I don’t bite (much).
In ending, to seal this precarious new friendship, I present you with a chipped, tequila salt-ringed glass so we can revel in this time of self-indulgent youth propelled by sensationalist bloodlust, with a hearty “cheers” to the many odd, exciting and bizarre London experiences yet to come.
[all photos my own]