Soho's swinging? Hoxton's hip? That was last week...

Now Clerkenwell's commercial. Notting Hill? Naff. So where's it at? begs Eleanor Bailey

If you haven't heard, Bermondsey is the new Soho - this month. It has all the characteristics that made Soho great: real businesses, real pubs, real people, old buildings untouched by cultural steamroller cafes Rouge and Dome - in fact, by culture at all. In short, perfect for the artistic minded who want to live at the cutting edge.

The media's crowning of the new Soho is an almost weekly event. This month's issue of gay style magazine Attitude slags off "Nu Soho" (meaning the Soho filled with the sun's-so bright-in-Romford-I've-got-to-wear- Moschino-shades-indoors brigade). Attitude crowns the young pretender Hoxton, aka Old Street, but the problem with the monthly magazine genre is that it is already late. I mean, even I know that Old Street is a glorified roundabout that was fashionable about a year and a half ago. And if I know it, then it must have been actually fashionable two and a half years ago and therefore entirely dead.

Hoxton photographer Dennis Pedersen, soon to move to a live/work studio there (absolutely the thing, urban dwellers) explains the problematic phenomenon of the constant crowning of the New Soho. "Artists are broke, so they move into an area that's cheap and full of authentic London. Then, because they can make their surroundings attractive, it becomes fashionable. Young trendies start moving in and the council catches on and starts `doing up' the area, gradually destroying the original feel. The end comes when the naff bars move in. Hoxton now has Japanese tourists wandering around wondering what the hell they should be looking at, but all the trendy stuff is behind closed doors."

What makes an area a contender for the influx of the artistic or gay settlers who will create a new Soho? It should be highly urban - not too many nice Georgian buildings. The more abandoned warehouses or deserted council blocks the better. It should have as much authentic, no longer viable, commerce as possible: old tailors, used white goods etc. It should have ancient pubs,seedy cheap "restaurants" with rude waiters who have been there for at least 20 years and an eclectic flea market. The area should be very inaccessible - not even plans for an underground link.

Life in the cool is not meant to be pleasant. Saski Brown, 24, a photographer's assistant, was a Bermondsey resident for two days. "It's a pit. There's one pub, full of dodgy skinheads. The only place to go is the garage, where they sell only sliced white bread and Mr Kipling cakes. I did my best. I stripped the floor, I painted the walls white. But by 3.30pm on the second day, I'd had enough. It was deserted, just one huge arterial road and a traffic jam. I just wasn't tough enough." Saski moved to still-urban Kennington. "It still had that bleak lack of an urban centre which I responded to - in a good way."

Despite attempts to usurp it, Soho itself will always be cool. The mass market deluge of its tightly knitted streets just means that the place has sub-divided. The cool people have gone underground until the storm has passed. Stephen Armstrong, presenter of Channel 5's entertainment show Exclusive, explains that the idea of a place being cool in this virtual age is old. "Everywhere that's good has become bad because it's really crowded. Which means that there has been a rise in members-only bars. In Soho, Quo Vadis is going to become members only, L'Odeon and The Phoenix Theatre Bar are members only. The members- only trend means that the `right' people go to certain parts of Soho and there's room to sit down. That is the trend." People always want to go somewhere central, they just don't want to mix with suburbanites.

This may also be a backlash by those stung by hype about Clerkenwellwhere, since it became mass-market trendy, it is now easier to buy papier-mache than a pint of milk. Trevor Beattie, creative director of advertising agency GGT, agrees that new Sohos are always exaggerated. "If you want dead rough and urban then King's Cross is really buzzing around York Way with Bagley's and so on. It's got shootings and everything. But Soho is actually the best it's ever been. The feel is much safer - it's knives and Camparis, not gun warfare. Soho is the new Soho."

WILL THE REAL NEW SOHO PLEASE STAND UP?

Brixton

One of the first new Sohos, at the beginning of the Nineties, when Soul II Soul was at its height. Now full of charity workers - check out the incense that hits you as you come off the tube. It's a place for the ecologically minded with an urban edge. Places: The Brockwell Lido. Drink: herbal energy drinks. Dress: ethnic not-so-chic.

Marylebone

Otherwise dubbed Noho, short for North Soho or, as some unkind observers said, simply "Not Soho". This well-kept secret in the heart of London is fast becoming like this sentence, cliche ridden. Thanks to the Union Cafe and other cool hangouts it is flooded with former Soho types come to drink Blueberry Smoothies and enjoy the fresher air. "If you blew up the Patisserie Valerie," says Alex, 34, a writer and Marylebone resident, "the BBC would shut down." Drink: the entirely authentic mocha-ccino. The look: unabashed mobile phone use, all black clothes (drip-dry because everyone has a baby).

Bermondsey

The latest hell hole turned cool spot. As customary, it is only a few brave individuals who can stick living there. However, its culture is rubber stamped by the heavy menace of the BNP. Drink: Special Brew. Dress: skinhead and Doc Martens.

Hoxton

Huge amounts of media coverage. Trendy people are moving in by the coach load, but there is still very little to do. The trendy Hoxton Square is an oasis in what is just the nastier part of Islington. Apart from the carbuncle of a tube station, you are entirely reliant for deliverance on the exceptionally slow number 55 bus. Places: The Circus Space, the Blue Note and there's a new arty cinema opening next week. Drink: black coffee. Dress: like a photographer.

Notting Hill

Far too fond of itself. The only people who can afford to live here now - apart from the merely rich who are inherently uncool - are successful media types, so there is clearly nothing authentic about them. Drink: Coke (served in lines). Dress: T-shirts from places you haven't heard of, designed for maximum superiority.

Islington

The Blair factor has dropped Islington off the cool map. Now full of people pretending to read broadsheet newspapers in cafes on Sunday mornings. The whole place reeks of New Labour. Drink: nice Chablis from one of the middle-class off licences with sawdust on the floor. Dress: Agnes B, except during yoga classes.

The real East End

Has always had a Krays-style glamour. Has the advantage of being quite tough without the downright nastiness of King's Cross. Drink: stewed tea, three sugars, to wash down the fry-up. Dress: Tommy H (but don't ask where it came from).

Woho

Soho spin-off on the west side of Regent Street, based solely, it seems, on the rise of one Heddon Street (see Real Life sections passim). Home to Conran's latest venture the Zinc Bar, Momo's and not much else. Embryonic, certainly, cheap and authentic, no. Drink: Bolly. Dress: expensive.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

    £25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

    £25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

    £25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas