Monday, 22 February 2010

Secret London

You've all witnessed the recent phenomena that is 'secret London', right? In fact, you were probably part of it; every day the week before last "...[another handful of my friends] have joined the group 'secret london'" was the the update Facebook posted to my news feed. I was intrigued because, like everyone, I want to know all the secrets, so I took a look. I wasn't particularly moved by anything posted to the group and the recommendations were so hit and miss I felt certain it was conceived by young, naive and impressionable types, so, needless to say, I didn't join.

What did capture my imagination, however, was the huuuuge photo album that accompanied the group; a mammoth reel that ranges from badly composed phone camera shots of famous landmarks (ssssshhhhhhh, don't tell anyone about the red telephone boxes by the Houses of's a seeeecreeeet!) to abstract and colourful appetite whetters to a London I'm not (yet!) fully acquainted with.

So this got me thinking about what really is 'secret' about this much-written-about and over-photographed metropolis I live in; is there anything left that hasn't already been blogged, photographed, contextualised and uncovered? There's nothing more frustrating than 'discovering' a winding path, an intricately carved statue, a comically defaced street sign or a café with uncharacteristically friendly staff only to find that Time Out did a feature in issue 10538, there's a Wikipedia entry or a whole Flickr group dedicated to it. Is it the discovery of experiencing the place itself that attracts the populace in their droves or is it the discovery of the possibility of the place? Can places, experiences and events really maintain their anonymity and elusive aura in the digital age? Will these uncovered places be flattened in the stampede or will they merely be bandied about in endless similar conversations in pubs all over The Smoke as talking points, turned over for a brief moment only to be returned to whence they came a moment later and never actually 'experienced'.

I'm sure the people at Secret London are enjoying their moment in the spotlight and good luck to them, say I. It remains to be seen, however, whether including 'secret' in their name will entice new readers into their fold or whether in time it will become a misleading misnomer, easily replaced with 'helpful', 'expensive', 'student's' or any other possibilities.

Well, in the absence of any answers to those ponderances, I thought I'd share with you my own little fragments of secrets London has shown me. It's not so much the transience of a new fabulously cosy restaurant 5mins from your house, bespoke advice on African Drumming classes near Finsbury Park or tips on vintage dress purchasing around Shoreditch but rather it's the way the light illuminates familiar buildings on certain days, squinting at the Golden Jubilee Bridge to reveal shapes and patterns, seeing double decker buses over Waterloo Bridge against a grey sky pregnant with rain, watching tourists photograph their families in front of St. Paul's....that kinda thing....

One set here
And another set here
Plus my Black and White at Night set here

These are my favourite London discoveries and they're the secrets I want to share with you. Wink wink.