What is London?

‘I walked back up the East India Road and caught a bus back to London. But then what, I asked myself, is London? To me, London is one thing; but to the inhabitants of Bermondsey, Wapping, Stepney and Poplar it is quite another. There are hundreds of London, all of them equally real to those who live in them.’

HV Morton, ‘In Search of London’, 1951.

2 responses to “What is London?

  1. And, actually, does ‘London’ even exist? I mean, there’s Greater London, there’s the City, there’s the City of Westminster, and there are 32 or so boroughs. But is there actually a formal entity called just London? I think there’s an article in there somewhere.

  2. Peter, great lecture today at Westminster Uni – fun and inspiring!

    Firstly, you need a better photographer for your blog 🙂

    Secondly, the question “What is London?” is asked on a regular basis by locals and immigrants, by wanderers and visitors, by artists and writers. It is difficult to be answered in only one way. For instance, Toby Litt gave us an exercise in writing The Great Contemporary London Novel the other day.

    We tried to employ different characters that would do justice to the place – from a city banker and a beggar, to a culturally diverse crowd, even to Lily Allen. Non of those versions satisfied us, as writing a novel with such characters will simply mimic any other story in any other city. We concluded that it is impossible to write The Great Contemporary London Novel because it’s next to impossible to depict the city in its multitude and simultaneity.

    Anyways, personally London is for me the absolute European capital, an urban paradise, a maddening human beehive where present is so well mixed with the past, that once you peel a 100 years of history, you instantly feel the power of cultural heritage beyond the cutting edge, trendy facades.

    You needn’t even speak English…and assuming that you do, that doesn’t guarantee that you will understand it here! Nods and smiles are quite enough.

    London’s park are pretty fuckin’ awesome (I mean, fat squirrels and pelicans!), and there’s no other city where Spring is prettier. However, the weather sucks the rest of the year. Apart of that, (oh, and what’s with the food?!), London is a good place to be. At least for awhile.

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