Alongside candid lines about drink, drugs and family problems, Florence + The Machine’s fourth album ‘High As Hope’ is also a lyrical love-letter devoted to the singer’s south London roots.
Born and raised in Camberwell, Florence Welch went to Alleyn’s School in Dulwich and briefly studied at the Camberwell College of Arts, before dropping out to pursue musical career. Last year, the star played an impromptu set at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Welch still lives in south London today, in a small Georgian cottage. Here’s her favourite places south of the Thames, according to her new album.
The Joiners Arms
Welch discusses being “young and drunk and stumbling in The Joiners Arms, like foals unsteady on their feet” in ‘South London Forever.’ This laid-back pub in Camberwell is known for its wide array of whiskies, beers, live bands, late-night dancing, and open mic nights. On its Facebook page, the pub states: “Talented live musicians. Groovy DJs. A fine selection of drinks.” Lovely!
Ratings for this pub range from an average three- stars on Yelp, to an admirable four-stars on Google. Review comments include: “Had the cheese burger and wasn’t disappointed,” “good place to kill some time,” and “not the kind of place to go on a first date.” Intriguing.
In ‘South London Forever’, Welch sings: “And we climbed onto the roof, the museum / And someone made love in the ground.” In an interview for The Sunday Times, Welch confirmed that this lyric is about a surreal moment she had in her youth at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, which is on a hill and has offers great views of London. “I think that song is about this… blink, almost. I was on the roof of the Horniman Museum, being a teenager, you know ‘woah’,” she said. “Then I blinked, and 4 albums later, it’s ‘oh my God, there’s a whole other section of life I’m supposed to figure out. When do I do that?'”
The museum has a splendid garden, a Grade II listed Victorian conservatory, and a lovely farmer’s market on a Saturday morning. There’s an eclectic mix of stuffed animals inside the museum, which is free, including its famously over-stuffed walrus. The museum’s social media account likes to amuse, having recently photoshopped Beyonce and Jay-Z into one of its galleries, mimicking The Carters’s ‘Apeshit’ music video in the Louvre in Paris.
— Horniman Museum and Gardens (@HornimanMuseum) June 18, 2018
In ‘Grace’, a song about her little sister, Welch talks about being “drunk in Camberwell again.” Having been brought up in the area, it’s no surprise to see the musician reminiscing about her younger years in this part of south London.
The area is known for its arty pubs and cafes, and for being the source of Withnail & I’s ‘Camberwell carrot’. Other than the previously mentioned The Joiners, it’s possible that Welch has enjoyed a tipple in places like The Tiger, The Camberwell Arms, and Stormbird.
— THE PECKHAM PECULIAR (@peckhampeculiar) July 1, 2015
Welch is said to have recorded the first parts of ‘High As Hope’ in the Bussey Building, a multi-storey arts hub full of creatives in Peckham. It’s reported that she cycled to there everyday during this time to “bang on the wall with sticks.”However, with no official confirmation, it’s also possible that she recorded these first stages of the record in 123 Studios, which is next to the Bussey Building.
While promoting her new album, in an interview for The Observer, Welch choose textile designer William Morris’s Red House in Bexleyheath, south-east London, as the location for her photoshoot. The house, built in the Arts and Crafts architectural style, features a number of Welch-worthy wallpapers designed by Morris himself.
Welch’s style is heavily influenced by the designer. In 2016, Welch even embarked on her ‘Golden Circle’ tour around Iceland, playing at four places Morris famously visited on his journeys the country in the 1870s, which inspired his works. She dedicated the tour to Morris.