‘London afloat’, an alternative lifestyle

Gloria Aura Bortolini

London. Living afloat, a hidden lifestyle in London. A subculture which possesses a romantic vision of life. Against hectic paces, against rules of ordinary life which is based on mainland. Inhabitants of houseboats are people who usually appreciate the value of nature. 

However the boat is not always a choice, but sometimes a necessity for economic reasons.
To report this fascinating way of living, an Italian filmmaker, Gloria Aura Bortolini made an exciting documentary, called ‘London Afloat’. She was able to dive in this mysterious reality, interviewing many people and finding out different angles of this alternative trend.

She presented her work in London last week at the Shortwave Cinema in a private screening.

Why did you decide to make a documentary about London afloat?

Before moving to London I didn’t know about Regent’s canal and the houseboats. Then I found a flat right in front of the canal and through my window I discovered this world inside London. I got fascinated about this lifestyle and I started talking to boats owners and I found some incredible stories. That’s how my documentary started but the process lasted 3 years and a half.

Who are people who live in houseboats? Why did they choose to live there?

Living afloat appeals to a great variety of people, any age, profession, family status… On the river Thames there are rich communities of people living inside ports, while on Regent’s canal there are the so called ‘continuous cruisers’ who have to move their boat every 2 weeks. They are mostly artists, students, creative professionals.
For some people it’s a choice because they love nature and freedom, for others it’s related to economic reasons because it’s cheaper to live on a boat that in a flat in the center of London.

Are there also rich people in houseboats?

Yes, there are bankers, lawyers, architects, doctors, especially on the river Thames. One of my character is a French banker who live with his butler on a French peniche, with a Jacuzzi on the roof.


What is the message of this documentary?

My idea is to show an alternative lifestyle, a hidden reality that is still less known in London. A subculture and a diversity.
It also became political because there’s a conflict with British waterways that is trying to change the rules and make this lifestyle less attractive because they are reaching capacity on the canal.

You are a reporter, photographer and filmmaker. What do you like most of these three professions?

I love all of them because it’s a different way to tell stories. I like to experiment and use different tools to tell what I find in the world that catches my attention. Sometimes I do it with video, or articles or photography.

Do you have any plans for the future?
I have many ideas other documentaries about different lifestyles and cultures. The next one will be about a geisha in Japan.


Website gloriaaurabortolini.com