Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Clubbing in Elephant and Castle

A guy had a vision of an elephant with a castle on his back walking among the clouds - imagine how ‘high’ he was- sometime around 1500s. Thats was enough though to give a whole area of south London its name. The fact is that Elephant and Castle has the reputation of being a quite underdeveloped place. This explains why so many of the underground raves are still taking place there. To me it proves how surreal this city has become. And I say become cause I am sure that 50 or 60 years ago London was just a declining and depressing city. History is standing by my side on this one.

During the day Elephant and Castle is a crowded transport hub, a complex of interchanges between busses, the underground and central highways leading towards and outside the city. Elephant and Castle at daytimes is versatile, full of all kinds of people: students from the nearby university, bankers and city guys going at work, rastafaras selling their jamaican food, africans and asians setting up their tents and selling anything that can be sold in a flee market. Above the flee market a monstrous commercial center, a mall and plenty of restaurants are piled up one on top of the other. From mainstream shopping to the flee markets of Asia and Africa, everything is there.

At night, the story is different. Elephant and Castle becomes the hub of the underground clubbing scene of London. It has been a hub since the early 90s during the summer of love when ministry of sound was breaking through. Night in Elephant and Castle is just beyond any normality of you going out for a clubbing night with friends. You just can’t know what to expect. Or even more, you don’t want to know what awaits you. It’s rough, raw and in your face. It’s just like the black holes of the universe: there is only one way in and probably no way out! Several buildings that you thought are cinemas, garages or theaters are now clubs with big and small raves taking place and people just rushing between them. It’s dark and ugly and the huge commercial complex above you looks like a giant empty tower on the verge of collapsing. This biblical setting creates no shame to people, it provokes them to be crazy and live it to the full cause there is simply no tomorrow guaranteed. So people -and there are people of any age- take out their real ego and expose it, beat it, show it off, without caring much of what the others would think about. Indeed, If you think of it, a city that lives so hectic on a daily basis needs to let somewhere its real self out and just be naked, dancing, drinking, smoking, fucking, taking drugs, socializing, looking life straight into the eyes as some say.

Going out in Elephant and Castle is certainly not for all tastes however diverse it might sound. You might find it funny and even enjoying during the day but during the night its very eccentric and surreal. Dali would have been proud of it.

1 comment:

diego said...

elephant & castle has to be one of the ugliest places in london: starting with that monstrous shopping center (which it seems will be demolish as a part of a big regeneration program planned to start soon) and ending with numerous ugly soviet-like blocks of estates. There are diverse theories about the origins of such peculiar name. One of them is that it is a corruption of "infanta de castilla" - spanish words that the londoners adapted to the most similar sounding english words: elephant and castle.
Lots of clubs and the odd squat party - and lets not forget the influence in the nightlife of the important latina merican community living in the area: the ministry of salsa is just one of the many clubs dedicated to the latin sounds you can find in elephant and castle.