Stayed: In Whitechapel Duration: 4 days, a long weekend
When: End of July Good For: Anything. Family/ Turn up friendly
I was excited about this trip. For one it was my first time in London, and most New Yorkers (at least that I come across) tend to look at London as the NY of Europe, like our long lost sibling. London is typically one of the top places we want to visit, and by this time I have lived in Europe for a year traveled all around the world and hadn’t done London.. so I was hype. To top it all off I was also going for Afropunk, which I usually go to every year in Brooklyn.
I was recommended a few areas that were “central” to stay at in London, of the options Whitechapel was the cheapest and didn’t seem far from anything so thats where I booked. I went through Airbnb, and got a shared apartment. When I actually got off the station and walked around I’m not gonna lie, it looked a bit shady, but I’ve lived in philly and barcelona and new york I know how to get by in shady, so I made friends with the neighbors and kept it pushing. the airbnb guy even pointed out that yeah it could seem sketchy but it was quite residential. He was right and I had no problems. I had a really comfortable stay and the location was a few stops from the festival and walkable (if you enjoy a healthy walk) to certain parts in the city.
As soon as I stepped off the plane and went to the hairdresser I got curry goat with rice and peas. I’ve heard great things about Caribbean and Indian food in London, so I made sure that I got that. (I feel super crappy because i saved the cards and now I cant find them to recommend these places.) I got Indian food at Shapur, it was very good and affordable, the caribbean food was good as well with great customer service, although I have had better in the states. I had England tea, in England! and I was there while friends had a traditional british breakfast although I didn’t have it. I also was taken to an apparent popular bagel spot and got some famous type of stuffed bagel and I hated it lol. I went to Chuck Burger ! I only had wings they were good, but the person i was with had a burger and liked it. I’m being super trash in this section. my memory will come back to me sorry.
The Club Scene:
Both nights that I went out I was near/ around the Shoreditch area, which conveniently enough for me was close to where I was staying. Night one, a friday, I went by Brick Lane. Brick Lane was a strip/alley looking street that had bars and resturants lined up. In all the bars we passed they all looked pretty cool, the crowds were mixed, music was loud and popular, there weren’t a crazy amount of people out it seemed like but it was also rainey. The Big Chill Bar seemed to be the “funner” bar. I went into Monty’s Bar and Lounge on that strip; it was a chill vibe, good music but low enough to have a convo, there was a back room that I think doubles as a dancing area. I didn’t party that much this night, but there seemed to be more people out than I had realized despite the rain.
Saturday, after Afropunk, I went to one of the after parties which was at Miranda, a club in the Ace Hotel. Not going to lie, by the time we got inside the club I was pretty drunk.. BUT I remember being very pleased with the music, some club, afrobeats, hip hop, and BODAK YELLOW … yeah i gave it it’s own genre. The only downside (depending on how you look at it) is that clubs close early at about 3am.
Okay, the actual festival.
Well... I wasn’t impressed. But here me out. I wasn’t impressed IN COMPARISON to Brooklyn Afropunk, the original. I think this is due to many reasons, and none of them at fault of the festival, and honestly if this was my first and only experience with Afropunk I’d probably be enamoured with it. So the reasons: The weather in London is very unpredictable so I was told in taking extra precaution, the festival is indoors, so this consisted of : 2 stages on alternating floors; item vendors on one side of the venue; and food vendors on the other side of the venue. With that, there were only about 4 food vendors, but with a smaller venue and smaller outdoors area this makes sense. I think the venue being indoors definietly takes away from the vibes, although if you did go outside by the food there was a small area to just hang about, eat and smoke and there you could mingle with people and get that outdoors festival feel. The energy throughout the space was ELECTRIC. Everyone was super hype for their artist, you could tell everyone wanted to be there everyone wanted to have a good time and everyone was more or less on the same page; key things I look forward to feeling when I go to Afropunk. But there were also some off vibes. What made me fall in love with Afropunk four years ago (2013) in NY was how inclusive it was how accepting it was and how diverse it was, all the while still showcasing a strong pride for afrocentric culture and presence in punk subculture (amongst other genres), that we’re often overlooked in. All that to say, in Londons AP I felt the black empowerment but not so much the inclusiveness to non-POC…. & I get it, it’s “not for them” but I guess NY’s just seemed more welcoming and I enjoyed that. I agree with the sentiments that in this setting non-POC aren’t the concern (cause hello they are in everyday life), but when chatting and being around a white person they were consistently dismissed and got more attitude towards their presence. Again I get it, but threw me off a bit. Drinks were fairly priced. Staff was super friendly. Vendors were dope. Location was near the sub. I even snagged me a bae.
Would I go back? Probably. It was tons of fun, especially the people I went there with (hey Lily my love)I had a good time with. I enjoyed talking to the people at the festival seeing the different outfits and accessories and talking with the vendors about their POC-specific products that are beyond needed in the community was great. I think the festival being outside adds A LOT to it. But those who have never experienced Afropunk outside probably didn’t see any issues as far as the venue was concerned; I’m completely bias, I’m a New Yorker who’s use to it a certain way, but nonetheless in Afropunk fashion such a beautiful time.
Can I be real and can I be lazy right now?… I’m simply going to list the things I saw.. I didn’t go in anywhere or ride anything only walked to places saw them and snapped pictures, so I feel like if I elaborate I’d simply be giving you a history lesson that I googled lol.
Royal Courts of Justice
I do intent on going back, I had an amazing time there, I met awesome people, and I definitely felt more at home there than other European cities for probably the same exact reasons I stated in the beginning on whyI wanted to go. Also I met a few interesting characters.. I may have to write a follow up to Dating Abroad … Over and Out.