Lenore “Looking In” : The North / South Divide

By September 22, 2008 January 8th, 2013 Culture

Lenore shares her thoughts with us on the scenes in Leeds and London.

LENORE’S “Looking In'” Column.

“Being born in London and raised in what most people would consider ‘the south’ (East Anglia) I grew up in the southern alternative scene, but when I applied for university I chose northern schools. After I completed my degree I moved to Manchester for a short while and now I make regular trips to Leeds to visit my beau (manager of The Subculture nightclub). I often hear people talking about the north-south divide but does the love and appreciation of the unconventional bring us together, or does this supposed partition extend into music and culture as well?

London is an enormous city of over 7 million people and it has a draw like no other place in the UK and tourists come from all over the world, not only to see the sights but also to visit the clubs and experience the nightlife, of which there is something for every taste. Torture Garden is the world’s leading fetish event and sees people travel for thousands of miles to take part and the brand new Club Antichrist is right behind it offering a similar experience with live bands included. No self-respecting band would miss London from it’s tour dates and often make a point of drinking in some of the notorious rock bars in the capital before and after their gigs. The Crobar is renowned for band member appearances and the Devonshire Arms is the only alt bar that I know of which enforces a dress code. Every year Metal Hammer magazine hosts it’s award show at the famous Koko venue and along with the biggest tattoo convention and a burgeoning fetish exposition, London has a huge draw for rockers and weirdos from all over the country and indeed the world.

With such a large population it seems that individuals within this alternative scene have to make more of an effort to stand out, constantly reinventing themselves and going one step further to be different. This competition also breeds elitism, making it difficult to meet new people unless you have an ‘in’ – or have done/worn/dated something particularly impressive. Leeds, on the other hand, has a population of just over 700,000 and a number of venues closing down as we speak. Live music venues Josephs Well and Atrium have already closed and others are making a loss, although the brand new Carling Academy opening in October should hopefully attract more people to Leeds, though this may push smaller venues over the edge completely. These small venues, and small crowds, do mean that the Leeds scene has a stronger sense of community and less of an intimidating feeling, though there is still an element of competition as there always will be in a scene that utilises appearance to distinguish itself. At the recent Woolstock Festival at The Subculture I was standing at the bar alone for only 10 minutes before people came to talk to me and before you think it, no they weren’t trying to chat me up (one was the Editor of SPHERE!). That would not happen in a city like London…unless they were trying to sell you drugs, promote their band or get in your pants.

While it seems easy to chat to strangers in Leeds – without a hidden agenda – it seems much more difficult to get enthusiasm going for new ideas, to begin something fresh or get ahead, from what I know of the club scene anyway. In London there appears to be a constant stream of new events, shows, clubs and venues all pushing to be the next best thing and get the crowds in, whereas in Leeds it feels apathetic. Perhaps in the capital there is so much rivalry that the management have to keep things innovative to keep their venues full, creating chances for bands, performers and promoters to make a name for themselves. However, this is a double-edge sword, more people means more demand and more opportunity but also attracts more competition – Leeds has less competition but less breaks.

It comes down to what you want from your scene; a close –knit community or a club of strangers, a familiar venue playing familiar music or a constantly evolving nightlife, healthy competition or no competition at all…whatever your choice there is something that rings true in all ‘scenes’ – everyone needs to make more of an effort. Things won’t get better if you don’t turn up, help out or just buy a beer and tell your friends – you can’t complain there’s nothing to do if you don’t attend or that no one talks to each other if you don’t open your mouth. Make the most of it and above all, support your scene, north and south.”


*Photos by Hunger Shots Styling – Bibian Blue