Happy birthday to us
We are two!
Apologies in advance, but today’s issue is a little self-serving. You see, London in Bits has made it to the two year mark, so we thought we’d take a moment to celebrate that and to say thanks to you for reading
Below is a short, personal essay from LiB’s editor, plus details of a little birthday present from us to you.
If you enjoy London in Bits then please share this issue on social media or wherever you like. We don’t advertise, so we rely on word-of-mouth to keep growing.
Anger is an energy
I don’t usually turn the TV on first thing in the morning on a Sunday, but on 14th March 2021 I made a cup of tea and switched on the BBC news channel to see if there was anything new on the Sarah Everard vigil.
The vigil had been held on Clapham Common the previous afternoon, and things had proceeded relatively peacefully until the event was hijacked by Piers Corbyn and assorted other moral vacuums, who thought it would be a good idea to capitalise on the death of a young woman in order to push their own agenda.
The Met failed to get the situation under control in time, and ended up forcing their way on to Clapham Common’s bandstand in order to “engage” with some of the protestors, a move which caused certain parts of the crowd to react. That’s when the “enforcement” kicked in and the whole thing descended into chaos.
Looking at all this from the perspective of 2023 (and in the wake of last week’s report by Baroness Casey), it’s tempting to think “Of course the Met acted like that - they’re the Met!” but at the time it seemed almost unbelievable that the force would act in that way, especially just days after serving officer Wayne Couzens had been arrested for the suspected kidnap and murder of Everard.
Like a lot of people in London that weekend, I was very angry about what had happened.
But, when I went online and looked at some of the independent sites which I used to rely on for unfiltered opinion on this kind of story, I was instead met with articles telling me where I could find ‘London's Best Brunch Meal Kits’.
Now I was even angrier. I took this a little personally (maybe too personally?) because I had played a small part in helping to create and sustain some of those early blogs which had, in turn, created a sense of optimism that a credible alternative to ‘big media’ could be more than a pipedream. We had even started using phrases like ‘citizen journalism’ (don’t judge us too harshly, we were young).
But, by 2021 that optimism was long dead, along with the body of independent analysis and comment that I used to rely on. The only alternative now was to wade into an increasingly toxic slanging match of tweets and subtweets or to get lost in a dirge of limp advertorial and promoted listicles.
That’s why I started writing this newsletter
It’s pretty much the only reason anyone does anything relatively worthwhile: Because they want it and nobody else is doing it (plus, we were still in lockdown and I had the kind of lockdown brain that convinced me I could write three newsletters a week while hanging on to my full-time job).
The first issue of LiB was published two weeks after the vigil, on March 31, and it covered the police watchdog’s report into the Met’s actions on Clapham Common. I was the sole subscriber.
After a few weeks we had picked up a few hundred readers and people were sending through the odd email to say that they were enjoying the newsletter. That meant we had to keep going.
Around six months after we launched, we introduced paid subscriptions; and towards the end of the first year, the money from those paid subscriptions was enough for us to start paying contributors for the first time.
Now, here we are, two years later and we’ve covered everything from gentrification, to architecture, history, arts and culture, food and drink and, of course, the Met. We have regular columns on London’s flora and fauna, and the city’s place in cinematic history, and we’ve published dozens of Where Do You Go? Q&As with a genuinely diverse range of brilliant people, none of whom - we’re glad to say - could be described as an influencer or a celebrity.
In the next few weeks we’ll be introducing more contributors and a new regular column that celebrates London’s ‘endangered’ independent businesses.
Today our readership numbers in the thousands and a pretty consistent 10% of that number are paying subscribers.
So, we want to say thank you for that
If you’re a paying subscriber (either monthly or annually) then we have extended your existing subscriptions by a month, free of charge.
That’s our way of saying thanks for supporting what we do here. All the money from your subscriptions goes to paying contributors a decent rate, so we can try and publish some of the best, independent writing about London. For that reason, your support means the absolute world to us, and not for one second do we take it for granted.
For our non-paying subscribers, we have gone through our archives and taken the paywall off a bunch of interviews, WDYG? Q&As, and contributor issues. They’ll all remain free to read for the next week.
So, you can now read our interviews with:
Charlie Taverner, author of Street Food: Hawkers and the History of London.
Jim Ottewill author of Out of Space - How UK Cities Shaped Rave Culture.
Tom Harper, author of Broken Yard - The Fall of the Metropolitan Police.
Michael Berlin, the historian who curated The Partisan Coffee House: Radical Soho and the New Left.
Tom Hutley, cab driver and YouTuber.
We’ve unlocked Where Do You Go? Q&As with:
And these special contributor issues are now free to read:
On the trail of Jai Paul: Attempting to untangle the musical enigma of Rayners Lane.
Surface Depth: Matthew Harle plumbs the depths of two-dimensional London.
Parks and wreck? Harry Rosehill asks if London’s parks are the best place for music festivals
Welcome to the jungle (aka Wardour Street): An exclusive extract from ‘Marquee: The Story of the World’s Greatest Music Venue’ by Robert Sellers.
Also, this Wednesday’s issue, which would normally go to paying subscribers only, will go out to everyone. It’s the latest installment of Paul Wood’s Tales from the Urban Forest column, and it’s about cherry blossoms and it’s gorgeous (plus, we feel we should compensate you somehow for this slightly self-obsessed issue).
Finally, we should reiterate that, if you think you would benefit from a paid subscription to LiB but you really can’t afford it (because you’re a student, or for some other reason), then get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll sort something out.
And thanks again for reading. Here’s to another two years!
5 little bits
Hammersmith Bridge will take a step closer to being fixed this month, when the steel support frames are fitted. It’s still a long way from completely reopening though so, over in the (paywalled) Times, Nicholas Hellen asks Why has no one fixed Hammersmith bridge? and looks at the potential ‘double-decker’ solution.
City Hall has become the latest institution to ban TikTok. The Greater London authority has said the rule was implemented as it takes information security “extremely seriously”.
Two very different types of London art news: First, the photographer Andrew Leo has published the images from his Soho project, which was shot during lockdown and features residents from the area. Second, the Russian artist Andrei Molodkin has claimed he is going to “project a sculpture featuring blood donated by Afghans on to St Paul’s Cathedral in the coming days.”
Brewdog have suddenly closed their Clapham and Brixton pubs. Brixton Buzz, for one, is not too upset to see them go.
Bonus link (because it’s in the New Statesman, so you might have to register to read it): Josiah Gogarty has written something on the ‘Claphamisation of cool’, which as far as we can make out means that most of what used to be cool is now just ‘semi-cool’ because… the internet?