Laura Dockrill is a writer, performance poet and illustrator. She's performed her work at the Edinburgh Fringe, Camp Bestival, Latitude, and on Woman's Hour, The Jo Whiley show, Newsnight, and BBC Breakfast, to name just a few. She has been a roaming reporter for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, runs Masterclasses at the Guardian and workshops at the Imagine Children's Literature Festival on the South Bank.
Which part of London is home?
I live in Battersea in South London; even though I grew up in Brixton, Battersea was always the park we chose to come and hang out in. My dad would drive us in his white transit van and pull up and we’d all pour out with bikes and breadsticks. Living here just brings back lots of sunny memories. I can’t ever imagine not living in South London though. I love the pure mix up of people, you can never stereotype a road in South London.
One word to describe London:
One word to describe Londoners:
What's you favourite place in London?
Soho. Anything to do with Soho. I just feel at home there, even when I am wandering the streets, lost, or charging late to a meeting with my hair stuck to my lipstick. I feel oddly immortal when mazing the labyrinth of roads. Safe and bursting with excitement, like there is always something to look forward to, even if I am just heading home for a night on the couch.
What song feels most like London?
There are just too many because London has so many split personalities. I think something like I’m Only Sleeping by The Beatles, but that’s usually because whenever I seem to be in central London it seems everybody else is charging around like suited pigeons with briefcases and I feel like some sort of gangly footed flamingo going the other way. But a song that is still true and British. A bit dreary and weepy. A little melancholy. Conversational. Groggy. Full of heart.
What's your earliest London memory?
I have so many. I was born in St Thomas’ by the river, I don’t remember my birth (don’t panic) but I do remember my little sister Daisy’s. My dad was a prop man and my Mum worked in town so most of my memories are driving; picking up, collecting. That’s probably where my deep interest for humans came from. Delving into all the different worlds that my dad would dip in and out of during his day. Weaving round the streets with my Dad, stopping off for buttered tuna rolls and ready salted crisps from his favorite cheap cafés and waiting for him to down the odd pint here and there at his secret central haunts. We would listen to the Sex Pistols, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Led Zepplin, The Buzzcocks, Blur, Pulp, Jilted John, Ian Dury, The Clash, Abba and The Stylisitics. Little things would keep us blissfully happy. The new Selfridges window display, the Christmas lights, spotting where Joe Strummer lived where he wrote London Calling, or even just a traffic free road and an open bag of Jelly Tots to share.
What do you miss most about London when you're out of town?
Oh god. Everything. I can’t even tell you. I can pull into ANY London station or airport and I just feel safe and happy and secure instantly. I love to walk, and choose walking over any mode of transport. I am forever adding an extra hour onto my journey so that I can enjoy a nice furious tramp home. I love watching, listening, thinking. I write quite a lot on the go; thinking of lines and ideas and building sentences. Having a dictaphone is so precious to me. But that’s what I love about London, the familiarity to just begin a walk and gently stroll from A-B without having to concentrate. Floating along. I love the bridges. The lights. The people. The bustle. Nowhere else is the same.
Who is your favourite London artist?
Which London figure would you most like to meet?
What's your favourite tube station?
Waterloo. I love pouring out of Waterloo and every exit has so much to offer. The back grand exit, which actually I suppose is the front (what a Rubik’s Cube Waterloo is!) and walking into the pedestrianised South Bank, when the flurry of excitable families, new romances and theatre goers wait at the traffic lights. When the market is in full swing and there is the smell of cuisine of every kind; chickpea curry, daal, bruschetta and tomato, noodles, manchego cheese and champagne, mulled cider, vinegars, jams and chutneys. I love the installations. The street art and graffiti. The slicing grind of skate boarders. The Royal Festival Hall and Southbank Centre are venues that are very dear to me and they are always doing something wonderful. If you come out of the other side of Waterloo you have the Young and Old Vic. No matter the weather there are always bustles of people drinking and talking outside, spilling into the street. Fresh thai food being served by vendors. I love Lower Marsh. Radio Days, the knitting shop and of course the Vespa Café (an old scooter workshop turned into a coffee shop), the cats and the misplaced wonky garden. Waterloo is also an easy short walk over the bridge to anywhere. Theatreland. A flower market. A restaurant. A pub. Somerset House. Trafalgar Square. Let the dirty grey pigeons and buskers lead you under the tears of clouds to wherever your old shoes take you.
What's your biggest London extravagance?
Cocktails at Kensington Roof Gardens with the birds and the sunshine (they do a cool open air film club too in the summer), Heston’s Diner at The Mandarin Oriental… stupidly delicious and fairytale-like, nice to save for a birthday or something special, Experimental Cocktail Club in China Town, Bob Bob Ricard in Soho for the button you can push for champagne. I love a mooch around Liberty’s with my husband; hours sniffing Diptyque candles and lounging around on rich glorious sofas. I love walking into Harvey Nichols and Harrods just to hear the clack-crack of my shoes on the shiny marble floor. But to be honest, you can’t get more extravagant than touching the beautiful golden Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park, or much simpler, a heart-warming glass of red wine and an Honest Burger outside in Brixton Market, shivering gloved hands whilst giggling, reaching for another chip. And Borough Market. Fresh green crunchy apples, mulled wine, cheese on toast, empanadas, sausage rolls and truffles.
What's the best London-specific word?
Apparently we really care about ‘bits’ - has that juice got ‘bits’ in it? but I think it’s probably just ‘mate.’ Although I’m really trying to personally bring back ‘Cheerio’; it’s so cheery and charming.
When does London annoy you the most?
When it’s littered. I hate litter. And the floor is a wet inky slush of used newspapers and people don’t take care of each other and barge and tut and are aggressive. I hate it when it gets a bad rep for crime and then it LITERALLY shoots itself in the foot and does something ridiculous that lets everybody down. I hate it when the people of London aren’t respectful to one another. When they judge and stereotype and are negative and bitter. But this is rare, and the same as most places, I suppose.
...and when do you feel like you would never leave it?
Those blissful pub garden days when the sun is still ripe at 9pm. An evening on the South Bank in the interval of a show, on the roof at the National with friends. Soho, glassy-eyed and happy, when people wave to one another. On my husband's birthday when we walk Soho, both in a fantastic mood, having a cup of tea in Soho, rummaging Beyond Retro. After a great meeting when I meet a friend in one of the old pubs. Or even just on a day like today. A whole day of writing. Cold, clear and dry sky. Cup of tea at my side. Walking my puppy in the park with the naked trees and the fallen acorns. The birds screeching and the sounds of laughter and chatter from kids coming home from school.