Zoe Allen meets Matt Brown, Editor of Londonist
Famed for its creativity, buzzing nightlife and a great new food scene, it’s no wonder Shoreditch has no problem in attracting companies to move their offices to the area.
For the hugely popular website Londonist “a website about London and everything that happens in it” there was no doubt where they’d set up their first headquarters back in 2009.
Zoe Allen went to meet Editor Matt Brown to chat about his experiences as Editor, what he loves about the Shoreditch area and why his top tip for the area is to explore everything…even the alleyways.
Londonist has gained a successful following in recent years, receiving over 500,000 unique visits and over 1.2 million page views per month, it’s hard not to have noticed them crop up on your Facebook news feed, let alone Twitter (they now boast over 144,000 followers!)
Keeping the capital up to date with news, reviews and events, they’re also keen to “celebrate the quirks, eccentricities, hidden and surprising bits that make up the alternative side of the city.”
Matt was keen to explain to me the unique aspects of Londonist that really sets them apart “unlike other sites, we’re really keen to keep up the local news stories and current affairs. It’s important we cover political issues in London, everything from housing issues to crime. We aim for 3-4 news stories a day as well as all the arts and entertainment coverage”. Matt is hugely passionate about the site, and fanatical about London. But then, I suppose you’d have to be to run a site dedicated to one of the largest cities in the world.
He admits to the odd time of information overload, the hundreds of daily interactions with readers can undoubtedly be overwhelming but he’s keen to add there are very few bad points to his job.
Matt joined Londonist in 2005, and after 5 years working remotely around London finally moved in to official headquarters in 2009. Moving to Shoreditch was an obvious decision “I love the ideas, the history, the people. It’s so vibrant here and the history is fascinating!” He explains the history of Shoreditch High Street; it traces back to Roman times, the history of Old Street (apparently named “Old Street” as far back as 1200AD) and stories of perhaps Shoreditch’s most famous frequenter, Shakespeare and the infamous Curtain Road Theatre. The place is steeped in history and Matt is incredibly knowledgeable about it.
But it’s not just the history that intrigues him; it’s the future of Shoreditch too. “I love architecture and the evolution of buildings here. It’s amazing to see such radical change; to watch the skyscrapers go up and the new buildings bite into Shoreditch from the Square Mile. Of course, a balance needs to be struck, accommodating new business while retaining the character of the area – and, crucially, not pricing residents out of the area. But still, I can’t wait to see what it will look like in ten years from now”.
We touch on the negatives of Shoreditch, something quite difficult to do for an optimist like Matt “few things annoy me, but the continuation of poverty on the doorstep of the super-rich Square Mile still surprises me.” We chat about the mass marketing of “Tech City” and the Silicon Roundabout, its position on the world stage and the surprising contrast between its promising glittering future compared to Old Street still being such a grey and run down tube station. Though Matt isn’t a frequent commuter, instead opting for walking everywhere if at all possible. “You see such interesting things on a walk home that jumping on a tube you’d never see”. He’s also adamant to try at least one new place a day, whether it’s a café, restaurant or pub, a great idea in London when its doubtful you’ll ever run out of places to go! (Matt’s favourite Shoreditch Bars/Pubs will be listed at the end of the article)
Shoreditch certainly has an eclectic mix of visitors, but for many it can be a little overwhelming and sometimes confusing to know where to go, where to avoid and of course the insider secrets known only to the Shoreditch locals. Matt’s gives us his top tip on exploration of the area “If you’re meeting friends, arrive early and go off to wander hidden roads and side alleys. Shoreditch is a maze of odd angled side streets, so go and explore!” It’s often where you’ll find the best street art, the uber cool speakeasy bars and the never-before noticed restaurants where all the cool kids hang out.
When asked how to summarise Shoreditch in 3 words, (just like his experiences) his answer was a refreshingly unpredictable Old/Current/Futuristic.
Matt loves Shoreditch, and so do we.
Matt’s Favourite Shoreditch Bars
1. Favourite is probably the Worship Street Whistling Shop…lovely basement bar, with great cocktail list.
2. Hoxton Hotel is another good place to relax.
3. Tip for a Friday night is upstairs at the Reliance on Old Street. Lovely space, and you can normally get a table until 6.30…which is rare for a pub on a Friday.