Community spirit is thriving in the Capital
You just need to know where to look. Here’s how to harness that collective togetherness for yourself.
7 July, 2023
Londoners often get a bad rep when it comes to being warm and welcoming. But that’s only because they’re mostly encountered heads-down on a crowded commute, trying to get from A to B on time.
In fact, it's because of its sheer size, population and sometimes hectic pace that at least 700,000 of the Capital’s population are affected by severe loneliness, but reach out, dig deeper, and you’ll find our thriving metropolis has some of the most convivial, sociable and welcoming neighbourhoods in the UK. The myth of surly city dwellers is easily busted when you take a closer look at the sunny seam of community spirit that runs through our urban postcodes.
But whether you want to harness some of that harmony in your own locale, or you’re looking to move somewhere that’s sure to be bursting with bonhomie, just how do you measure community spirit? And how do you scout some out for yourself?
Put simply, community spirit is about personal connections. A feeling of belonging to a strong, supportive and cohesive neighbourhood that banishes any sense of isolation. Where there are strong social dynamics, a sense of togetherness and a pride in the place. And where you’re sure to get a friendly ‘hello’.
However, if all of the above might seem slightly intangible, there are some more obvious and practical ways to find community spirit, and more often than not, they’re free. You might be searching for a special interest group. Or you might be the type that sees any organised activity as the ultimate in forced-fun and you’re simply interested in being privy to your area’s secrets. Whether you’re looking to find a friendly face, the lowdown on local happenings or your social tribe, here’s how…
High on life
Buzzy, busy high streets are London’s social glue and the beating heart of a community. These thriving enclaves are teeming with independent boutiques, a strong café culture, artisanal delis, a working space, library and decent pub. All your shopping and social needs in one hub. These shops play a huge role in bringing the community together and providing a comforting familiarity. They’re places where folks know your name and their windows are your bulletin boards, where local groups and charities advertise what’s on - be it a pub quiz, supper club, choir, book club, knitting group or parent/toddler social. Get chatting to your local barista, postman, librarian or shopkeeper and join the local Facebook community group – they’re sure to provide a hotline to local goings-on. Having everyday amenities like these within walking or cycling distance scored highly with Londoners in a recent KFH report on London’s 20-minute neighbourhoods. And it’s this connectivity that’s a prime consideration when it comes to choosing a place to live.
Boasting some of the best high streets in London is the bohemian Crouch End that’s been voted Best Place to Live in London 2023 by The Times for its dynamic market town feel, bistros, gastro pubs, annual community arts festival, and boutique ArtHouse cinema.
Someone who has experienced this vibrancy first-hand is Sales Branch Director for KFH Crouch End Barrington Dutton. ‘Crouch End is just so special and unique – it’s like being in a beautiful, quaint village, yet only around 20 minutes from the city centre,’ he says. ‘Everyone knows each other, and many people born here often stay and raise their own families. It’s not uncommon to see three generations of a family living in Crouch End.’
Also worth a mention is Marylebone with its handsome Georgian and Victorian architecture, high end restaurants, classic British pubs and annual summer festival. Or there’s West Hampstead in all its leafy, Art Deco splendour - at the heart of which lies a friendly shopping hub with a Saturday farmers market.
Green spaces, market places
Parks and local markets are stomping grounds for locals where you’re guaranteed to find a friendly face. The Capital has an incredible 3,000 parks, and green spaces come top of the list of things that are important to prospective buyers and renters. No surprise then that in a recent Rightmove Happy at Home survey, Richmond upon Thames scores highest for its outstanding local green spaces as well as sense of community spirit.
Whether you’re looking for an urban oasis to enjoy a group walk, run, or dog walk, there’s a patch of glorious green to suit every need. If you enjoy fresh air with your exercise, workout with The Outdoor Gym Company in Greenwich or Paddington, swim at Brockwell Park’s lido, cycle at Herne Hill’s velodrome, or play lawn bowls at your local club.
Otherwise, mingle among the bazaar-like buzz of one of your local markets. These are places heaving with charm, culture, people, produce, atmosphere and good will – perfect for getting under the skin of your local area. One of the city’s most diverse, where people from different backgrounds pull together is Tooting Market. This foodie heaven is unassuming from the outside - but step inside to a colourful, fragrant assault on the senses where the food stalls offer the world on a plate.
It’s this diversity that’s typical of the area, says Sales Branch Director for KFH Tooting Antony May: ‘Tooting is an area that caters for all demographics and has so much to offer for everyone, including young professional first-time buyers and families,’ he says. ‘It is such a lively place to be, with so many vibrant places to eat and drink. The local markets and independent restaurants are outstanding and offer incredible variety to residents and visitors to the area. Local businesses thrive in Tooting and are well supported by residents which emphasises the community spirit the area offers.’
The urban village
You can trick yourself into thinking you’re far away from the chaos of the city and enjoy all the benefits of rural living by moving to one of London’s urban villages. They have it all – a leafy location, green spaces, independent shops, gorgeous architecture and a strong residents’ presence. All things that combine to give a location a unique atmosphere and sense of place, and ideal if you’re looking for a ready-made community spirit. Take a stroll around the period properties, white picket fences, boating lake, and 70-acre park in Dulwich Village and you’ll feel like you’re in the English countryside - not a mere 30-minute drive from the city. In nearby East Dulwich, the vibrant Lordship Lane is packed with quirky shops, gastro pubs, organic delis and the weekly Saturday North Cross Road Market.
As Lettings Branch Director Victoria Saunders from KFH East Dulwich will testify: ‘Dulwich is a wonderful place to live and work with the most amazing community spirit. Not only does it boast idyllic parks, elegant homes and famous schools, there is a huge sense of community. As well as feeling this when you walk through the streets, you will see a sense of this on the East Dulwich forum where you find endless generosity and advice from the residents and surrounding neighbourhoods. I recently attended the Dulwich Festival and joined the celebrations at Goose Green. It was great to see local businesses being supported and celebrated by the residents. This really highlighted the true community spirit in Dulwich and it felt really special.’
You can find the same community energy in Wimbledon Village, whose Victorian and Edwardian mansions and European-style cafés have prime position above the town. Or Brackenbury Village between Ravenscourt Park and Hammersmith Grove, where residents enjoy a real sense of belonging among the Victorian terraces and cluster of shops and cafés.
Perhaps not technically a village, but nonetheless boasting a scenic and secluded village charm, is Little Venice – a leafy enclave just to the north of Paddington and next to the Regents and Grand Union Canal. Veer off the Regency, tree-lined streets to mingle with the locals in one of the independent theatres, waterside cafés and restaurants with views over the colourful house boats bobbing on the water.
However much you want to immerse yourself in your local area, there’s no doubting that enjoying or spreading a bit of community spirit can positively contribute to making you settled, content and happy in your home.