I recently received a link to the Boston Globe’s website, oddly enough, which – thinking about the end of the Beijing Olympics – has been looking forward another four years to London 2012. They have published some amazing photographs by aerial photographer Jason Hawkes which show my city at it’s best:
I must admit, I am very much a city boy. I love the way cities look and feel, even if they’re not seen in such a beautiful way as the nineteen pictures on the Boston Globe website. They’re places of surprise, where you never know what will be around the corner. They’re places where people have to mix, where you’ll share the same space, the same air, as someone you would never normally associate with. The heterogeneity of cities brings together a diversity of people creating a dynamic social mixture and cultural variety all of its own.
Even the least loved – not that agree that Birmingham, where I spent a lot of time growing up, is an ugly city – have relationships with people. But the relationships are not neutral. They’re personal. An individual’s relationship with the city is not just the physical. It’s about people, and places, and their interaction.
I love living in London – where children speak over 300 different home languages, where people come to find not just their fortune, but themselves. It’s easy to forget, stood on the Northern Line each morning – especially in a world of economic upheaval – that the city is more than just bankers and lawyers (and each of them has their own identity somewhere beneath the pinstripes).
It’s the yummy mummys of Knightsbridge, the suburbanites of Bromley, Brent and Barnet, the Indians of Brick Lane, goths of Camden, indies and dirty-fashionistas of Shoreditch, gays of Soho (and older gay men of Earl’s Court and lesbians of Stoke Newington), the Pechkamites, Claptonites, Kentish Towners and riches of Richmond. And it’s about how they all interact with where they are, as well as each other.
I never fail to be fascinated, walking along the street, who I see. I sit in a coffee shop, look out and wonder where the old lady’s going, what the schoolkids have been up to today, and why the rich bald man’s driving a 4×4 down Camden High Street, speeding through the red lights – what’s he got to rush to?
Try it sometime. Change your perspective.