April 14, 2014
The day, artist Annie Nichols moved to London, “it felt right”. As did her decision to go back to school and combine her passions for food and art as a cookery writer. “London constantly stimulates me, surprises me, inspires me and allows me to be creative the way I want to be.”
I’m originally from Somerset in the West Country, but I’ve lived in London on and off, for over 25 years. I now call East London home.
I moved to London for love. My boyfriend was working here at the Savoy hotel as a waiter. I had just returned from spending a year working as a chef in Switzerland, and moved straight in with him. I hadn’t lived here before, but it felt right. Even as a very small child I had constantly dreamed of one day living in London.
We moved into a small flat in Dalston, which was a very different place to how it is today. Dalston was a dodgy place back then, but I didn’t really notice, or care. I loved it’s pulsing and pushy, energy and edginess. Walking down Ridley Road market, Reggae and Turkish music blasted out, unable to drown out the Cockney stall holders shouting their wares. There was (and still is) crazy looking and smelling fruits, vegetables and herbs from around the globe that I had never seen in my short life. I was a young girl from a quiet village in the country, but I felt right at home here. I still love Dalston, I know it’s become painfully hip, but it’s still cool, just different.
London never bores me. I think I’m someone who needs constant stimulation so it suits me and I can step in and out of the madness when I choose to. I like to think I have lots of options of things to do (even if I don’t do them all, all the time!) and I definitely need to be part of a multicultural community.
I live in Hackney Wick now. When I moved here it was also pretty edgy, a mostly industrial area, it felt like living on the edges of a dusty, war torn town. It was noisy too, but this time to the sounds of all night (or all weekend!) hardcore raves. (This really couldn’t be any more removed from the countryside I grew up in!) Then the Olympic stadium was built a javelins throw (!) away and things changed. It is also painfully hip in parts here too now, but it’s a young, creative, pulsing community which I find immensely stimulating and I adore being part of.
When I left school I had always wanted to go to art school, but for various reasons, I ended training as a chef instead! I have to say this gave me a skill that allowed me to travel and work all over the world. But when I discovered there was a world of food styling and recipe writing out there, my creative brain jumped ship. I still desperately wanted to go to art school and this looked like it would take me one step closer to this dream. (and it did)
Eventually at 34 years old I enrolled at Central Saint Martins College of Art, (now the University of the Arts London) for a full time Foundation course, followed by a B.A in fine art, specialising in photography and video. I was in my element and again, I felt right at home. I rediscovered learning. It was like feed me, feed me, feed me. I couldn’t get enough of it.
I now combine working as a food stylist and cookery writing, (and food quite naturally works into my art practice.) but I have a live/work studio so I can be surrounded by my art work, and make and create whenever I have a spare moment.
London constantly stimulates me, surprises me, inspires me and allows me to be creative the way I want to be. Sometimes living here somehow feels like being on a runaway train. Everyone is running in different directions, and some in the same directions, and this will never stop. But this is very cool with me.