To live in London, or to not... Would be the question, but is now a no-brainer.
With any decision to relocate, moving your belongings and settling into a foreign city can be a frightening ordeal. Yet most cities (and its population) put forth little effort to prepare you for what you might soon experience. For this reason, London’s radically honest billboard campaign might either be a) refreshing, or b) a bit difficult to take.
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A new project which explores why people choose to live in London, and why they choose to leave, is presently playing out through an unlikely venue – two advertising billboards in the center of U.K.’s capital. Called London is Changing, the project runs through a website that invites people who are transiting either in or out to show their reasons and emotions behind their migration. These messages are then displayed on the billboards, causing passerby’s to pause-for-thought as they walk, jog, or drive by.
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Rebecca Ross, a communications design lecturer, is the brain behind the project. She traded use of the electronic display units in exchange for some consulting work she did for the billboard company.
The response to her call for submissions has made for some compelling and interesting reading. Most of those who have taken part so far have been leaving London, but Ross hopes that with greater publicity, interest in taking part in the project (which runs through 2015) will help spread the word to a wider audience.
It’s accurate to say that contributors’ reactions range in diversity. Some seem unjustifiably embittered by London’s intern culture and sketchy landlords, and others contribute in protest to the unfair housing rates. “What creativity can there be when only money can buy you your next opportunity?” asks a freelance filmmaker relocating from West London to the Netherlands. “I have had to move four times in the last two years because of unscrupulous landlords, rent increases, or nightmare housemates,” protests an art worker who was moving from costly Southwest London to the much cheaper Northeast.
And others – seeming to be a bit luckier – choose to relocate by choice. “I wanted to live within walking distance of a cinema, decent restaurant, or bookshop!” contributes a civil servant who moved from the edge of London region to the inner area of Greenwich. “By selling up I can clear my mortgage and live on my pension,” declared a retired naval officer who is, by himself, leaving Greenwich and traveling outwards.
While there are many pleased by their choice to move beyond the city, others look back wistfully upon their decision to move. For many, London’s allure might be largely in the past. “It’s not the city I knew. It doesn’t feel like it’s for people like me anymore. It’s a hell of a lot richer and duller,” said a student relocating to the South Coast.
One graphic designer headed for the English Midlands sounded much more regretful, “As a gay woman, I love the anonymity of the capital – it’s tolerance and diversity has made life very comfortable.”