Back in the 1980's I did what many had done before me, I left my small town and moved to London to pursue my fortune. I grew up in the industrial town of Luton in Bedfordshire and for most of my childhood I expected a future that was like my father's, to work in one of the many factories that dotted the town. Either the major employers, Vauxhall or Luton Airport, or one of the other thriving industrial businesses in the area. I could also have worked in the service industries that served the staff of the industrial companies, so whatever route I took my future was ensured.
Once I became a wheelchair user, however, all of these possibilities disappeared and I became described as unemployable. With so much time on my hands I focused on my dream of becoming a musician, and within a few years I had achieved a level of success that meant I was being featured in magazines and on TV, and was supporting some major acts. My profile as a musician led to me being discovered by a TV producer, and I was offered the chase to present TV shows.
By now I was travelling to London so often that it was cheaper to move to the big city and pay rent there than spend so much on petrol for my car. So, like so many others before me, I relocated to London. I gave up my adapted bungalow, moving to a small one bed flat in a dodgy part of Hackney, and said goodbye to my family and friends. Within a few months I had become part of London's then thriving alternative scene, with a gang of new mates. Shortly after this I met the woman who would become my wife.
While my wife was born and bred in London, most of the other people I met had mirrored my experience, and had moved to London from a smaller town. Most were either chasing a dream career or had left a town where they felt excluded for whatever reason to disappear in the big city. So we became a gaggle of creative freaks working together and having fun along the way, as had generations before us. This is what has made London, as well as Manchester, Liverpool and most other major cities globally, a creative hub where boundaries are pushed and new ideas thrive.
Now my wife and I are following so many others in another move, by leaving London for a quieter pace of life. We are moving to the seaside, to the Kent town of Margate. No matter what Samuel Pepys says I am not tired of life, but I have got to a point where the poor access of the UK's capital city wears me down and so Diane and I are seeking a change, driven as much by our inability to afford to buy a home in London as it is by a desire to meet the challenge of a new chapter in our lives together. How sad is it that a successful journalist, broadcaster and business consultant with his equally successful web and IT developer wife can't afford to live in London?
As we are going through the rigmarole of relocating we were suddenly struck by another sad fact. Young people can no longer hope of moving to our big cities to follow their dreams as it isn't financially possible. Rents are out of reach for most young people, and buying a home is only available to the ultra rich. There is very little hope that a struggling musician, let alone a disabled one, can consider leaving their home town to pursue a career in the big smoke, thanks to just how expensive living in cities has now become. What will the artists, creatives and weirdos that the UK seem to throw up all over our isles do? How will they find like minded people and form those support groups that lead to them creating something new and ground breaking?
With the sad thought that so many of our youthful friends and confidants would be stuck in their small town lives if we were young today, it struck us that maybe towns like Margate that hold the solution. I travel a lot for my work, and I have seen so many towns that have fallen on hard times. The industrial jobs that once were so plentiful have gone, and trust me you only need to visit Luton to see the impact of this, and each of these places are searching for an answer. Maybe becoming creative hubs might be a new direction for them? Stop being places that the outsider want to leave and instead welcome new strange types with open arms. Let them be creative, and let them work with local people to build your town into a place where creativity blossoms.
Diane and I plan to work towards this in Margate. I am planning to open a small recording studio, filled with my collection of classic instruments, and offer them to local talent at affordable rates. I also aim to work with the local council and businesses with the aim of becoming more accessible and inclusive, as I know that building a more disabled friendly Margate will attract more visitors and people will also move there (and be really great for me tee hee). It seems that our big cities loss will be the rest of the country's gain, as long as we all play a part. I know when I move from London I want my new home to thrive and Diane and I will do our utmost to play a part in that. So watch out Margate, here we come.
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