Actor Oliver Trevena, left, and DJ Zen Freeman are hosts of the Sunday roast… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Members of the Sunday lunch crowd at the Palihouse in West Hollywood have been known to order dishes that don't appear on most local menus: "toad in the hole," "potted pork belly" and "sticky toffee pudding." Many of those same diners have been known to tuck their copies of the Guardian UK under an arm as they gather there to partake of the 6-month-old Sunday roast, sitting at long farmhouse tables and rubbing shoulders with other Brits who call Los Angeles home.
FOR THE RECORD:
Britons in Hollywood: In Sunday's Image section, an article on British expatriates in Southern California misspelled the last name of a former British consul general in Los Angeles. His name is Bob Peirce, not Pierce.
Or they meet up at the Brit breakfast club at hot spot Cecconi's or party at Soho House, the newly opened members-only social club in West Hollywood. And they may very well encounter one another at BritWeek LA, which in fact turns out to be about three weeks of events including programs that focus on design and fashion, an appearance by Jeff Beck and enough "salutes," "receptions" and "galas" to fill the social calendar of a mere mortal for a year.
It seems as though England is having a "moment" in Los Angeles. Hollywood especially seems to be awash in English accents, an asset in a town where native speech is typified by a certain laziness in inflection and use of the word "like."
"There is definitely an increase of Brits recently," says Oliver Trevena, an actor from East Sussex, England, and one of the hosts of Palihouse's Sunday roast who relocated to Los Angeles five years ago. "My accent is not as special anymore," he jokes, adding that his Hollywood United soccer team, which once counted four "token" Brits, is now dominated by his countrymen.
The British Consulate estimates that there are an estimated 200,000 Brits living in Los Angeles County (out of 10 million plus people), the majority in the Santa Monica area. Perhaps it just seems as if every fourth person we encounter greets newcomers with "Hello, luv." Nonetheless, the social and cultural landscape of Los Angeles is abounding with references to Britannia.
A community group called Brits in LA — whose members touch base via Facebook — has seen a dramatic increase in activity, with people attending events, such as a weekly Brit breakfast or volunteering for airport runs and posting listings for cars, jobs and restaurant recommendations. Members don't necessarily have to be British (although about 85% are). "You just have to like us," says Eileen Lee, a founding member of the group.
BritWeek LA, an annual event that aims to educate people about British culture and promote the contributions of L.A.'s British population, is perhaps the most prominent example of L.A.'s Brit moment.
Bob Pierce, a former consul general in Los Angeles, started BritWeek in Los Angeles four years ago with television producer Nigel Lythgoe (who's also a judge on "So You Think You Can Dance"). The events were popular enough that similar functions are being held in Orange County and San Francisco this year.
"We felt that with how many Brits there were in L.A. doing interesting and prominent things it was worth bringing all of that together," Pierce says.
Starting April 17 and running through May 7, the "week" includes an appearance by designer Zandra Rhodes at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, a gala dinner with Sir Richard Branson and an art show of British artists. Ye Olde King's Head Pub in Santa Monica will host events ranging from a darts tournament to a British karaoke night. Not surprisingly, Pierce extols the virtues of British food, especially British food in Los Angeles. A number of restaurants will include British food items on their menus and the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills is staging a "Royal Afternoon Tea."
Left coast attractions
If you're wondering why the British are coming (apart from seeking out our temperate climate) several transplants interviewed for this article cited a certain "can do" attitude as a key attraction.
Pierce says there are three factors that explain the allure of the City of Angels: "There is an innovative culture here that's not one of cynicism or inhibiting ideas, even crazy ideas. Another is the eclecticism of the place, and it's not just a one-industry thing.
"There is a very significant scientific community here and a lot of business innovation. I cannot think of another city, with the possible exception of London, that has this to offer in a fairly small radius .
"And third is the sense of optimism," he added. "Even when the headlines and economy are bad, somehow here people don't allow themselves to be completely crushed. And at the best of times there's tremendous optimism."
In the five years he's lived here, Pierce has witnessed a steady stream of people moving from England to Los Angeles.