Monday, April 30, 2007

Gay living neighbourhoods in London

Last Friday, I received the following e-mail from a gay guy who's going to be moving to London:

Dear GB,

I have been following your blog for quite a while and I have to say that I am most impressed by your writing. To put it shortly: you write well.

But I am not writing just to praise your writing. I am going to move to London in September to study Law and am wondering if you could recommend a gay neighbourhood in which to live, sort of like the Village and Chelsea were in New York (and where Hell's Kitchen is becoming). Not just a neighbourhood to go to for fun, but to live in. I have lived in a gay neighbourhood in Chicago before ('Boystown') and I had a really good time. It's just that I feel more at ease, and enjoy the almost palpable sexual energy in the air, in a gay ghetto than in a conventional neighbourhood. I know segregation is not good, and that integration is important, but I suppose for myself, I just want to live somewhere I can be absolutely comfortable in, where cruising boys is not only safe but also acceptable.

So: not sure if you could help with this?

Many thanks in advance!

It's a good question. But in fact, I don't think we really have a neighbourhood like New York's Village or San Francisco's Castro here in London.

Old Compton Street, SohoThe gay centre of London is in Soho, but it's not really an area where many people live. It is possible to live there of course, but being right in the very centre of London it's quite expensive. For example, looking on Foxton's web site this morning, the cheapest place to rent was £265 a week, but with only 195 square feet it's very small!

The People's Republic of IslingtonHistorically, the residential areas with a higher proportion of gay people have been the areas where people mainly voted for the Labour party. So places like Camden and Islington. Back in 1997 when Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister for the first time, he was living in Islington. But again, because Camden and Islington are both quite central, they too can be quite expensive.

Like many old European cities, the cheaper places to live tend to be in the East, and the more expensive ones in the West. Apparently, the reason that this pattern is repeated across lots of cities relates to the fact that the wind tends to blow from West to East. So when everyone had coal fires, the west side of a city was more desirable because the air blowing in was fresh, whereas the people living in the east of the city had to suffer the smoke from the people in the west! Hence Bow and Whitechapel in the East are cheaper places than Kensington and Notting Hill in the West.

All the places that I've mentioned above are in North London of course. South London is another possibility. But apart from Soho, none of the places that I've mentioned are particularly gay. Perhaps that's a good thing though, because as the reader suggests, in principle integration is preferable to segregation.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this subject?


Sir Wobin said...

Clapham is becoming very gay, it's residendial, has good access to several tube lines, mainline rail, has nice restaurants and bars on the high street. Not only are the boys gay, they're also dead cute. As GB pointed out, Soho is a commercial centre with pubs, shops and restaurants. Clapham is gay fabulous without the commercial feeling that Soho has because it's mostly residential.

London does segregate a fair bit. You'll find accomodation costs for family homes are quite steep near good schools. For most other professionals, good transport links and a local high street for shops and restaurants drive prices as much as good housing stock. Students tend to get priced out of good accomodation so flat sharing is quite common.

Good luck and welcome to our fair city. :-)

cuteCTguy said...

I actually find Chelsea and South Ken quite Gay.. in Euro or International sort of way. But I would say that there isnt really a gay neighbourhood... And Dear reader, I dont personally like ghettos.. Thought we had successfully moved away from that. Are gay people not intergated into Society? Why drag us back into the past. Spread the word, Gay people are normal folk who live in normal neighbourhoods and do the same things as their neighbours.

Anonymous said...

there's always Vauxhall...brixton?
these places are packed with homos and cheap to boot !!

Anonymous said...

Vauxhall's the new gay village!

David said...

You are a bit dismissive of Soho. Some 5000 people live here. I am one of them. In my experience only a small minority of Soho residents are gay. Many people who live here have been in the area for generations. Just go to Berwick Street market and speak to the traders, most of whom have Soho connections going back generations. There is even a primary school here.

But part of the joy of Soho is that it has for centuries been the most cosmopolitan quarter of London, where any immigrant or member of almost any minority can feel at home.

I am gay but love Soho because it is historically a melting pot of all races, cultures and sexualities.

And many people who live are far from rich.

David said...

live here

czechOUT said...

Did you mention Earls Court?

Earls Court preceded Soho as London's centre of gay nightlife, and there are still some businesses aimed mostly at gay men, including the well-known Coleherne pub. The Balans restaurant chain and the Clone Zone chain of shops, both aimed at a gay clientele, both originated on Brompton Road in Earls Court.


midniteteaparty said...

I feel like London is such a gay city anyway, everyone has gay friends or gay neighbors.

Maybe because I live around my university goldsmiths, which 90% of the guys here are gay. Our college have the worst gay society in university of London because no one care any more, and everyone are gay are gay friendly at least.

You will find gay pubs and clubs all over London, really..and if you are student, then your friends tend to go out in the trendy East End, which sort of shoreditch and old street( a bit of arty and getto feeling), where all bars and clubs are mix gay and straight, and most of guys are cool about it. you can easily pick up cute boys in the mix bar or on the street in the east end. really friendly place.

so if you up to the east neighborhood and good night bus connection, then islington, bethnal green, bow are good choice and cheap.

i tend to avoid west end during the weekend as all the gay bars are packed of tourist( maybe gay pubs are london’s top tourist attraction in the guide books?)... They are fun for a while, but then again it's like fast food or take away, cheap and nasty.

good luck with the house hunting -- the rent going up again, sorry to inform you..

Z said...

There are some gayish areas, but because London is so expensive, people tend to live anywhere they can afford to, rather than in a gay enclave. And people tend to focus more on convenience (tube access, etc.) than being in a gayborhood. And you will find small clusters of gay bars in almost every neighborhood anyways. Not all of the gay life is centered around Soho or the clubs of Vauxhall. Greater London is just a very gay place in general.

Anonymous said...

You will feel at home wherever you live in London because it is so culturally diverse.

If you think you feel like a 'freak' and don’t fit into normal neighbourhoods then wait till you come live here in London, you will feel quite normal and boring!

My advice is stick to zone 1 to 2 if you can afford it – anywhere in these zones you will feel comfortable expressing yourself and will be surrounded by gays.

The Most gay areas to live are, hopefully without sounding too stereotyped:

West End: especially Soho, Covent Garden, Bloomsbury, Fiztrovia, around Tottenham Court Road and into Holborn. Here you will find the gay village of London packed with bars, gay gyms and clubs. Very noisy, polluted and expensive.

North London: especially Kings Cross, Camden Town, Kentish Town and all the way up to Hampstead. You will find gay gyms, sex shops, bars and clubs in these areas within reasonable walking distance. Much greener here and much less polluted due to higher altitude. Can be expensive in the very pretty areas!

West London: especially Earls Court (popular with many escorts) and Hammersmith (popular with many flight attendants or “trolleys”). There are a few gay bars and shops that are very well established. Green leafy streets and garden squares. Very beautiful but very expensive!

South London: Especially Kennington and Vauxhall. They have become very gay areas because they are so close to the West End and are especially cheap (compared to other areas of London). Unfortunately it’s not so green and the feel is more post-war industrial architecture (most of this area was bombed during the war). Gay mega clubs seem to opening up all over the place around this area due to cheaper rents and rates.

Also worth mentioning are:
Maida Vaile, Pimlico, Battersea, Clapham and many others….

For gay accommodation you can visit these websites:

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Dwight said...

I've been reading these historical blogs, and I am going to be a newcomer to London hopefully in the fall of 2010. Coming from Canada I am wondering which part of London is the most economical and travel wise place to live. I don't mind sharing a place for the first year, but would probably move into a flat on my own should I choose to stay.

Just looking for some advice - I am gay, but I think for my first year, living anywhere gay is going to be the least of my problems.


Anonymous said...

HI campers really enjoyed reading this. I do think that although ghettos can and can not be a good things. I grew up in a very gang area; straight 30 somethings guys from prison would come out and hang out just outside my door and line the whole street in west London. Big strong guys.

I was very shy so didn't have the guts to manipulate that into sex which could have been done with the right very confident guy or guys. I had a partner anyway. I just wanted to get some eggs without being called a poof or batty man which really stressed me because gay was normal to me. I di wear skin tight jeans and tops but many young gay men do its about showing yourself off for a mate.

I still live here and have learnt to really love being the older gay guy and being parental to younger guys and caring and asking how they are and meaning it. And connecting with the older people and my own age too. I feel that special difference that Gay men have that out going that care that sexyness that uplifts everyone and inspires

Taking a Holistic approach: See my face book page: Loving and Holistic; gay : LGBT soho London.

I still live here but in my 40s long to be around lots of gay and Bi people and especially sexy guys gay style I miss that; tight chinos , tight everything. Not down low hip hop style that is not my thing. I like tight chinos , skinny jeans and shape and body around me; sound familiar.

When I sit in local cafe rarely do out gay people come in and it find it sad. Some guys come in who seem on down low but that really bores me. I Like outgoing gay guys with gay style.

It is really difficult in the sense that you place a gay man in a council flat in a very straight area and it can be a struggle; not so much today. But the struggle can be to find your life there ; your hot guy your friend or friends. You can end up being the caring person with no life of your own if;- there are no other LGBT around you.

You might avoid letting people into your home because you can't be bothered to keep hidding the nude bubble butt hot bod framed pictures and not sure how non LGBT in conservative area might respond.

I find Islington full of sexy guys, people have some style there with a cool sexy attitude and also Clapham common.

Its not enough to be the responsible caring guy which I have enjoyed and will always be part of me.

I need tiny shorts , bums and , nipples and chests around me all the time and I enjoy that. I have a sort of partner but enjoy sexy people around me ; end of.