Last weekend I found myself in a somewhat drunken (okay, completely drunken) argument with someone who was trying to tell me that London doesn’t have anything to offer creative people like me. I was told I would be better off packing it all in and moving to Toronto because creative people do not amount to anything in London.
I thought I would compile my thoughts in a completely sober manner so I could properly defend the booming arts and culture scene in my city. I don’t think my arm flailing accompanied by slurred speech really got my point across.
I just get really peeved because for the last couple of years people have told me I would need to go to Toronto to achieve what I want to achieve. Not that I have anything against Toronto, in fact I love the city. But I am determined to make my mark in London, Ontario before I go elsewhere. It seems lazy of me to get up and leave in the midst, of what I feel, is a cultural revolution in this city.
Maybe it’s because I am more open to what our city has to offer. I work at one of the largest arts organizations in the city, I live in the heart of downtown and I am part of a group that produces culturally infused events in our “free-time”. It’s all around me! I couldn’t ignore it if I tried.
This past week it really hits home, as I bounce to fringe plays to concerts to record releases to Car Free Fest to (this weekend’s upcoming) Nuit Blanche. How dare people utter to me that London does not have culture.
Sure, with a larger population like Toronto’s, there is a larger selection of events, venues and artists to experience. I get that. But what is to say that if I go to Toronto, with multiple people with the same passions as me – that I don’t come across as white-noise, a replica, a cookie-cutter idealist. And plus, Toronto is just a train ride away, I get to experience their culture multiple times a year – I am not blind to it. I am not trying to say that London’s art scene is grander than Toronto’s, I am merely pointing out that there IS something here worth taking note of. And to completely disregard what is happening here is a such a close-minded notion.
When I go out to support an event in MY city – I usually know who am I supporting. Nothing fills me with more pride then seeing someone I admire working to make their dreams come true (cornball moment). I have an emotional attachment seeing these people on stage or unveiling a new piece of art. And I know it goes both ways. During this year’s Grickle Grass Festival I had multiple people put their arms around me and say they are proud of what we are doing for this city. It’s a beautiful thing! Which also brings up the fact, there is a HUGE support system in London.
I can’t force people to see the light. But I’ve said it before, London is a "we" city, not a "me" city. Which is really hard to grasp to people who are only concerned about promoting themselves and their work. London’s art scene is a tight knit community that is really very accepting. It’s all about taking ideas and growing them within a community. Rarely is someone left pounding the pavement on their own. There are always people who want to hear what you are working on and share their own passions with you as well. I have made so many connections in the past few years that are priceless and it would be irresponsible to discard these for the temptation of big city lights.
I’m not disillusioned. I am not going to become a millionaire working in London. I am currently a Marketing Assistant, not the most glamorous job in the world. But it is with an organization I am passionate about. There is no guarantee that if I move to a larger city I will become the Grand Puba of a company, and what is to say that I would be working for an organization I am emotionally invested in?
Maybe this is what happens to people who make decisions with their hearts – we don’t have a lot of money or fancy things – but, you know what, we’re happy. And right now my heart is in London. And I’m excited to see how this city will grow in the next few years.
One day I will probably go to live in Toronto or Montreal or Nashville (my dream) – one day I will crave a change. By this time there will be younger, more motivated people in this city and it will be their time to make their mark. But no matter where I am I will never discredit what London has given me and the beautiful culture I was able to experience here. Because of this, London, you will always have a piece of my heart.
Alright, London, enough sappy talk – Let’s dance, sing, create and keep this revolution moving!