Get us in your inbox

Clapham Common bandstand
Matt Brown/flickr

‘Clapham will always be waiting’: south London mum Mariam Chahin on the joys of SW4

By Time Out London contributor

Think Clapham is lame? SW4 mum Mariam Chahin knows that you’re just jealous…

I moved to Clapham two years ago, three weeks before having our first kid. It’s great for him, given its high density of good schools and restaurants equipped with super-clean changing stations (some even offer complimentary wipes). I love it. But it seemed that every time I told someone where I lived, the reply was a dry: ‘Oh… that’s nice’. Clapham is lovely and green. But cool, hip and trendy it isn’t.

We’ll never compete with east London for flower markets, fixies and eggs-and-avo, but even neighbouring SW hoods like Balham and Tooting are a whole lot trendier than we are – and they’re in Zone 3, for goodness’ sake. Claphamites voted their neighbourhood the best place to live in a Time Out poll last year, and yet young people in Clapham North still show off to their friends that they live in Brixton – even as they reassure their parents they’re safe in boring old Clapham. What’s going on?

Maybe it’s the fact that the area has attracted a more affluent flock of families in the last decade or two. Clapham definitely has an image problem. But the truth is, there’s more to this patch of London than NappyValleyNet, Saturday lie-ins and Aussie rules football.

Check out how buzzing Venn Street Market is on a Saturday! Marvel at the rich green of Clapham Common (no Instagram filter necessary)! Pay a visit to the strip of excellent restaurants on The Pavement: The Dairy maybe, or Madeleine and its freshly baked croissants! What about lovely Abbeville Village? Towards Clapham Junction we’ve got cafés and craft beer pubs that can rival those of the East End. We even have our own music festival in the summer, South West Four, filled with acts that have made plenty of headlines (albeit in the ’90s).

Yes, there are a few parts of the area that let the side down – like Northcote Road, where the ratio of little humans to adults and the blandness of the shops is genuinely snooze-inducing. And there’s no need to mention Clapham High Street: Infernos isn’t anyone’s idea of a sophisticated night out, even if it is London’s home of YOLO.

But remember, dearest Dalston and baby Balham: not so long ago, we were you. In the days before Instagram and Snapchat, people like us made this tired bit of south London ‘desirable’. We built this city on Bugaboos, and one day you’ll join us.

Because admit it: you don’t really want to live in that tiny flat above a chicken shop, do you? Or to sit on the bus every day to commute from that far-flung bit of tubeless south London? Every time anyone asks you what you like about your area, don’t you talk about the cosy pubs, the green spaces, the relaxed neighbourhood vibe, the friendly local eateries?

Go ahead: grow that beard, start that food truck, experiment with a career in photography, make that homemade jam. Get on social media and show off a little. But know that someday you will mature and develop. You’ll want to eat in nice restaurants and send your kids to a nice school and maybe go for a walk on a bit of grass that isn’t covered in dogshit. And Clapham will always be waiting to welcome you… if you can afford it, naturally.

Tempted? Here’s our Clapham area guide.


    Popular on Time Out

      Latest news

        Read next