You may love it, you may loathe it, but whatever your feelings it’s happening anyway. The locals have spoken: from this October, the area around the Strand will be known to the world as Northbank.
The decision comes after a majority of businesses in the area, which stretches from Trafalgar Square to the edge of the City, voted yes to the creation of the ‘Northbank Business Improvement District’. This may or may not have something to do with the £8 million Westminster council promised to pump in if they voted yes.
We are, if we're quite honest, a bit on the fence about this one. If the other side of the river is out-competing the Strand these days, it's probably because it’s a beautiful stretch of river frontage combining open space, arts venues and restaurants. Simply adding the word "bank" to a district's name isn't going to change the fact that it’s mainly characterised by bus exhaust fumes.
More to the point, these sorts of rebrands happen all the time and, generally speaking, don’t work. When did someone last tell you they were just popping over to Midtown or Cityside? In London, place names are defined by usage: boundaries are fluid, districts break up, or merge, or vanish altogether. You can't just decree a new name.
And yet, and yet... This area genuinely is a bit lacking in identity. It’s squished between Soho, Covent Garden, Westminster and the Temple, yet doesn’t really belong to any of them. Those Legible London signs tends to designate it "Strand", even the bits that aren't, or "West End", which is so vague as to be meaningless. This isn’t re-branding: it’s just branding.
Whether Northbank will catch on, only time will tell, but one question remains: given that the area across the river is commonly known as the South Bank (two words, definite article), why have they gone with Northbank (one word, none)? Enquiring minds want to know.
Photo courtesy of Cbohncke, taken from the Londonist Flickr pool