Growing Scenes for London Artists: Towns and Suburbs - The New York Times
The pandemic has accelerated a creative exodus.
LUTON, England — “People shooting up in the alleyway here. Lovely. Welcome to Luton,” the artist Dominic Allan said on a recent afternoon as he passed two drug users in the town’s rundown former hat-making district.
Luton, about 30 miles north of London, was once famed for its hat industry, but those factories closed long ago. Its current most prominent businesses, an auto plant and an airport, have both been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. And in 2004, it was voted the worst place to live in Britain, according to an unscientific but much-publicized survey.
Yet such towns are exactly the sort of places where hard-up contemporary artists have been gravitating in recent years as unaffordable rents have forced them out of London.
Now, the pandemic is prompting a wider exodus from the British capital, pushing up real estate values in outlying regions. Months of remote working have made city dwellers reassess their housing priorities. And like many office workers, contemporary artists such as Mr. Allan — who makes art under the moniker “Dominic from Luton” — are also finding that they no longer need to be in a big city.