Updated: Aug 26, 2020
In no particular order, here are 7 of the most life changing spaces I've experienced in London, that have expanded my horizons and made my day better and that!
1. Autograph Gallery in Shoreditch
I said I wasn't going to do this list in any particular order, but for me, this place beats out everything in London. Every park, museum, gallery, restaurant, club or event— especially if you're a creative. Autograph is magical because every single one of it's events, exhibitions, collections, archives, research, artist opportunities and more give life to artists whose work come from the places that are often misunderstood, misrepresented, under-represented, and/or from disadvantaged spaces—healing the unhealed who often play healers.
I first discovered the gallery in Fall 2019, a few weeks after moving to London. I saw on Facebook that a friend was attending an exhibition by and conversation with Omar Victor Diop. The event was sold out. However, as a huge fan of Diop's, I ventured through the stunning hipster hub that is Shoreditch and made my way to the sleek wood and glass gallery to ask if anyone hadn't showed up. Lucky for me, a young sister behind me overheard and let me know her date was sick, I paid my £7 and was in! A night with Diop and four exhibitions later, Autograph has changed my life.
The Autograph about us page reads: since its foundation in 1988, Autograph has collected photographic material which reflects our mission: to use photography to explore questions of cultural identity, race, representation, human rights and social justice.
We do this through:
• Acquiring and researching historical photographs, to extend visual narratives of black presences.
• Acquiring mission relevant work produced by 20th century photographers, often overlooked by other institutions.
• Commissioning new works by contemporary artists, to create the archive of the future.
The archive is an important learning resource for all ages and is accessed for educational, community and outreach work.
2. Vocals and Verses
"Dedicated to showcasing the finest spoken word and live music in the UK" is their tagline on Instagram and that's just what they do. Vocals and Verses is a pop-up event that happens every few weeks (or maybe once a month, I'm not too sure about the frequency) and it's goes a bit like—mellow lights, beyond amazing live RnB/jazz/soul, and some spoken word that is actually good. I'm very picky about spoken word because it can easily fall into whack attempts to imitate the infamous Russell Simmons' Def Jam Poetry—complete with head wraps and fake African American southern or New York accents and all (if you don't speak like that normally, then why are you speaking like that when performing poetry?). However, if done authentically with an actual message and a juicy style, I'm a huge sucker for the spoken word indeed. I'm happy to report that the Brits of V&V don't disappoint. The night also usually presents more live music than poetry—and man can they sing! The first few singers I saw at V&V actually brought me to tears.
The event often occurs at intimate, low-lit and sultry venues with a mature crowd. It's vibe is definitely grown and sexy—if you can't hang and you're not going with love, light and art in your heart, then... stay home? Many famous artists graced the V&V stages in their underground years including JP Cooper,Jacob Banks, George The Poet, Shakka, Cynthia Erivo and Ray BLK.
3. The Saatchi Gallery
Not much to say here. It's the Saatchi Gallery, if you know then you know. Second to no other large gallery and/or museum in London in my humble opinion—this includes the V&A and all the Tates! I'm a huge fan of the Design Museum and I've heard the National Maritime Museum is the most educational museum in the UK (notwithstanding the UK's horrific history as a war mongering and exploitative state, and the rumour that slave ships often docked there), but I still maintain the Saatchi is where one can be inspired by all things great and futuristic, by pulling from the past to do better.
4. GUAP Party
An annual concert x party held by London's very own GUAP magazine (also the world's first video magazine) it's a lit experience to see music at its finest and to just be lit and that (I know). Highly recommend to do this sober (this is still a drug x alcohol free website after all). But do note, this is a young event, for young creatives to be young (if you get what I mean). Everyone at the event is a creative so it's also a space to feel those "aww you get me" vibes. Past performers have included R.A.E, Octavian, Nadia Rose, 808ink, House of Pharaohs, SNE, Daniel OG, Knucks, and Elf Kid.
5. The New Black Cinema Film Collective
It's exactly what it sounds like. They host the best events around London selectively screening the best of global black cinema. Some events include Q&As with the directors and/or cast of the film and more. The vibe is always creativity and wanderlust.
6. Something™ Salons
Something™ (thats what its called, its called Something™), is a creative studio in the heart of central London that offers up and coming creatives the space and resources to do anything they want... for free! Yes, that's what I said. For free! Located on Great Portland Street, the brick and plant-clad cozy cafe-like office space dawns leather couches and an open bar for hosting occasional salon events where young creatives discuss the topic of the day. They also host listening parties and showcases. The vibe is creative outletting and networking—with so much understanding and excitement for one another!
7. HomeBros UK Dance Classes
Somewhere between Stratford and Leyton, I believe, lies this cold dance studio that is literally only heated up by the intense sexy that is these afrobeats dance classes run by these bomb brothas. I really don't understand when we started dancing like we're fighting. Some of the stuff I see on Chop Daily, or just online these days, it's like people go super hard on a Mr. Eazi track sef... it's not that deep. When did we forget that most African dances are about doing some sexy whine or quick footwork super smoothly with very little effort put into it? Anyway, if you're old school like me, and you like dancing from the heart and soul instead of some flashy gra gra stuff, then take this class! I don't have more deets. Slide into the DMs of this IG account and have fun!