created by Annie Chisholm

Through her lens, Annie explores a familiar haunt with more to offer than you might think.

Admittedly, moving to London for me took a while to get used to: culture-shock, life-shock, “shit, I’m a real life adult”-shock. Among other things, for the first time in my life, I was confronted with poker-faced strangers; the realisation you can’t see friends every day, and – my top bug bear, beating the Northern Line into a close second – having to allow an hour to get anywhere.

Fortunately, I’m now with the programme. I love London. I feel more frequently charmed rather than threatened, I’ve got used to the absence of a high street from my life, navigated the initial FOMO of doing everything on offer, joined a gym and feel like an all-round local. And yes, I no longer apologise for living in Clapham. 

Nevertheless, despite the excitement of moving somewhere new, the first year in a big ol’city for a mid-size town gal was a bit daunting. Like any sort of change, there’s an innate human need to cling onto something familiar, a need to feel like you recognise where you’re going and simply feel at home. In my first few months in London, a place I’d often turn to at the weekends was the Southbank. In those tentative times of still trying to find some common ground within the great big machine of the capital, it’s a place which did tick all the boxes – familiar enough from childhood London days out, but with enough novelty to be a place worth exploring. 

Some of my contemporaries who are now more London-savvy might turn their noses up at a Saturday walk along the concrete stretch – preferring Brixton Village where they spend their time grumbling about the tourists and the lack of artisanal coffee shops. But, for me, the vibrant joy of it against the variation of twentieth century brutalist shapes stretching from Waterloo to Southwark is really something to behold. You can’t feel alone here, it’s a place full of warmth and seemingly familiar amongst the unfamiliar – families on days out to the many galleries and theatres which line the river, to those lone contemplators, happy by themselves on a bench, riffling through the book tables or pondering over a coffee – comfortably quiet amongst the noise. 

In my mind, there’s a reason this place draws in the crowds – the vibrancy is infectious and the contrasts keep even the most frequent visitor on her toes. The Southbank embodies London’s best quality – that there’s something for everyone. But instead of having to trawl from NW1 to SW2 up to E21 it somehow all comes together in a short, bustling stretch along the Thames.

Annie Chisholm is a photographer and an artist. She also makes a mean watermelon vodka.

Follow her on Instagram.