THIS IS LONDON: LIFE AND DEATH IN THE WORLD CITY​

 

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“I was born in London but I no longer recognise this city…I don’t know if I love the new London or if it frightens me: a city where at least 55% of people are not white British, nearly 40% were born abroad and 5% are living illegally in the shadows.” Beginning as a confession in Ben Judahs new book “This Is London”.

Don't Be. Become.

 

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Spending anxious nights huddled in an underpass not far from the wealth of Mayfair with homeless Roma beggars. The author throwing himself in at the deep end, many of the men and they are almost all men are indentured slaves. Some have lost jobs at home, others looking for a better life, most borrowed money to travel to London and are now forced to beg t pay off their debts.

 

Mr Judah, has a gift for assimilating himself into very foreign environments and bantering out stories. He meets an uninterested Middle Eastern princess, who passes her days in a haze of skunk, an Afghan shopkeeper who entered Britain hidden in a lorry, and a Punjabi minicab driver who exhausts himself washing bodies by night at his local mosque.

 

The City’s economic hierarchy is an obsession shared by most of London’s immigration population. My Judah meets a Nigerian who had escaped work in a sweaty hotel laundry room to join the police, an example, albeit a rare one of upward mobility. He, however, sees race still as destiny: “In London, you’ve always had the Africans at the bottom of the pile along with the West Indians…Then you get some Afghans. Then the eastern Europeans coming up…Then you get the Asians. Then you get the Irish. Then you get the whites…And at the very top, you get the rich…Where there is no race.”

 

The apparent failure of London’s many ethnicities to mix has geographical costs. Mr Judah visits Neasden, an area in the northwest of the city that used to be a photograph of white suburban serenity. The English have no departed: “They want to be central, they want to cycle—they want the city.” The oldest of inhabitants in London are pouring back into the centre, so that the former inner-city terraced slums now offer organic food and craft beer, whereas the suburbs with their net curtains have become overpopulated tenements for the city’s migrant labourers. “Thirty times all over south London I have written down in street interviews that someone thinks the government wants to push poor black people out of the centre.”

 

Those without the sufficient means to enjoy London’s rejuvenated and wealthy centre, most of the men and woman Mr Judah meets, the city is difficult and is frequently disappointing. He observes: “They come to London inspired not by a dream of how great things could be, but by the knowledge of how much worse they can be.”

 

“This Is London” is not dogmatic, there is nothing here about how to lessen the grinding poverty nor does he try to write government policy and improve the rights of low-wage workers. He has though, done an important service in capturing the voices of those swept to the margins by economic forces beyond their control. 

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A U T H O R
Donald Anthony

I M A G E 
Donald Anthony

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