Virtually London (lite) is two years old this month. It was created by former Daily Mail Media Manager Nik Hewitt on May 13, 2008 (avatar Nikk Huet, Nik is now a Multi/Social Media Specialist in real life). Nik advertised for reporters to work on the blog, which would cover all things to do with Debs Regent’s wonderful London sims called Virtual London. I applied for the job and joined Nik on June, 3rd 2008 when he made me Assistant Editor and then Editor. I had my own virtual office in the DMGT building, (a copy of the Daily Mail building) in Virtual Kensington and it was an exciting time for me.
Virtual London had consisted of four sims in those days, one being the vibrant and very much alive Knightsbridge with its popular Underground Club, London tube station, complete with working tube trains, and many shops. It even had virtual buses that toured the sim, you could jump on board for a ride and if you stood in the road you were sure to get run over by a bus sooner or later, good job they were phantom and went straight through your avatar! I’d always loved Knightsbridge as it had been the very first London sim of them all, and I’d visited there as a newbie, being drawn to a London location in SL as I am from South East London in real life.
Kensington was very special and I thought the DMGT Offices were extraordinary, it felt like a real office and I interviewed many people there for articles. The Greyhound pub over the road was a mirror image of the real Greyhound and we had live link-up events between the virtual and real pubs. There was also the glorious Kensington building, a superb build by TD Reinard and probably one of the grandest buildings in the whole of SL.
There was Chelsea with its little row of houseboats and the Big Ben clock tower, which I also loved. Nik offered to pay me expenses for some SL clothes and things, but I opted to use the money to rent one of the houseboats, which I adored. Chelsea had a lovely feel about it; it was a great place to live. The very talented and excellent CNN writer Hibiscus Hastings joined me as one of the Virtually London (lite) reporters and she soon looked around Chelsea and told me about the new Imperial apartments that people could rent over by the wharf. Both Hib and I couldn’t believe how nice and spacious the apartments were and I decided to move from the houseboat into one of them, along with Hib who also rented one. Debs graciously let us have the apartments as we promoted Virtual London on the blog and Hib and I have so many happy memories of staying there, with newbies and sometimes griefers dropping in! Former Manager Seany1235 Blinker, and former London Greeter Manager Clive Hissop (who lived upstairs) were always coming to our rescue to eject unwanted visitors, but it was great fun!
Mayfair was perhaps the trendiest of the sims, it was beautiful, a place for galleries and elegant shops and a Mayfair Market. My first consignment had been to advertise the Mayfair Art Fair Month. I was asked to meet the artists taking part, many of them being established artists in real life, and I interviewed them one by one, my first real articles for the blog. I had been amazed at the talent of the people I was meeting and I still feel greatly honoured that I had interviewed them and been able to write about their work. Mayfair later gained its own club, the Mayhem Club and The Coach and Horses Pub, both of which proved to be very popular.
It was with huge excitement that Hyde Park was created at the beginning of July 2008, I’d spotted former London Manager Fennel Mimistrobell terraforming the landscape to make the lakes and green expanses of lawn, she had created the park in just three days and it was a tranquil and welcome edition to the rest of the hustle and bustle of Virtual London. Hyde Park was later to become a Gateway for new people to arrive in, as it still is today.
A brave attempt was made to introduce the more colourful side of the real capital into Virtual London: Soho! A good idea at the time and it had to be tried, but it hadn’t proved to be a success, mixing an Adult content sim with the rest of London at that time didn’t get the traffic, so Soho sadly was no more. Maybe the Adult classification kept the avatars away, but it was worth a shot.
I continued to cover the five sims, Mayfair, Chelsea, Kensington, Hyde Park and Knightsbridge and these were happy times. I worked with Hibiscus and then I met a lovely bubbly newbie called Pixi Piers. Pixi had something about her, she sparkled, her personality instantly attracted me and she said she would love to be a writer. Before I knew it Pixi had joined us and created some of the wittiest articles on the blog. Along with Hibiscus, who can turn her hand from serious in-depth articles to hilarious SL stories, Pixi added yet another writing dimension, bringing her special, sometimes wacky humour into a little real London history along the way. I am pleased to say that yet another great writer, Ed Follet also joined the team. Ed is a real relief to us females, he records things from a much needed man’s point of view and is a talented and gifted writer, plus his photography is brilliant! Pixi is still one of the team, although she has not been well, but she is on the road to recovery now and I’m looking forward to her working on the blog again one day.
Nik handed the blog over to me a while back and I have enjoyed running it and reporting on all things London. We try to expand all the time with interesting news and reviews and bringing other London based sims into the equation has been really good too, as we have seen some other remarkable and creative people bringing that London touch into SL. Spooks Blackburn’s Whitechapel 1888 is something totally unique and a place where people can learn about Victorian London with astonishing real life facts. Kat Kassner’s Doctor Who New London Village is an absolute joy to report on too, Kat along with manager Laredo Lowtide, has created a masterpiece of a new Sci-Fi London and it’s a paradise for followers of the cult tv series Dr Who, they must be very proud of their London sim. We have another great venue with Brie Janick and Seany1235 Blinker’s wonderful West End Club, along with Cutewillow Carlberg’s Union Jack pub where many a fantastic night’s entertainment can be found. The West End Club is one of the busiest and most popular clubs in SL and to have a pint down at the Union Jack and meet the crowd there is a must! These lovely people have the right formula and a wealth of experience in knowing just what people like to do in SL and the new sim has a bright future ahead. Dj Janis Short has just opened a brilliant venue called the Hangout, this is the latest exciting news for me as it is based on the real Butler’s Wharf in London which is near Tower Bridge, and it will be a sure fire hit. We will be bringing you an article about this very shortly, I love it there and think the Hangout Club has something very special to bring to SL, well done Janis!
Virtual London no longer has Chelsea, and I was sad to see it go, but it now has Westminster and a good community of people who enjoy working and partying there, the Green Man Pub is a particularly popular addition . Virtual London has been a turning point in SL, Debs Regent pioneered the way to bring real businesses into a virtual city and she has turned SL into an actual business herself with her company Virtually Linked. Debs had a dream when she first created Knightsbridge, she wanted a mirror image of the real London with a crossover of real life enterprise and she achieved this and so much more, Debs has been an inspiration to us all.
It’s been an amazing adventure for me over the last two years since I started reporting on the first four London sims, Virtual Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea (and later Hyde Park, Soho and Westminster) and each sim has its very own part in metaverse history brought to you by this blog, as will the other new London sims who we now report on. There have been many ups and downs, just like news in the real world, more ups than downs I’m pleased to say, but it’s all ‘news’ and it’s what actually happens. I’ve always welcomed comments here too, as comments reflect how people feel, if there is something that has to be sorted it’s best to get to the root of the problem and the only way is 'feedback'. Nik told me right at the beginning (thank you Nik!) that I needed to report on everything, not just the successes, and he was right, if people are unhappy about something and it isn’t corrected, they simply move on to new places. I haven’t always made friends by reporting honestly and openly about things, but I’m proud of the blog and our fair policy where people can give their points of view from all angles. We don’t block critical comments (unless they are very offensive without being constructive) and I hope people will continue to give their opinions, be it about the blog or about what is going on in the sims. At the end of the day you can only hope that people react in a professional manner if others do discuss things that they may not like.
What is the future of the blog? Well who knows, I just enjoy writing and meeting all those wonderful people who make up the population of SL and as long as there’s a story to record, hopefully I’ll continue with the latest news
Hib, Pixi, Ed and I are the Metaverse London News Team and I may even talk Spooks Blackburn and Boye Jervil into joining us, who knows (large hint intended Spooks and Boye!) and hopefully we will enjoy a future of reporting on all things in Second Life London in Virtually London (lite).