London is booming. It is growing in population and wealth. Property prices are vertiginous. The results can be seen in shining new developments and towers, and a skyline full of cranes. But who gains the most? Are we creating a city of haves and have-nots; affluence and deprivation; of prosperous home-owners and eternal renters? How can regeneration - in the Olympic area, the Thames Gateway and all over London - truly benefit communities of all backgrounds and incomes?

Judging from the previous responses there is a certain level of disillusionment with life in London. But in terms of the idea of a unified city, can 7.5 million people ever be truly united? We're not a small village, but one of the world's great cities. The beauty of such a large city is the promise and allure of anonymity - you become one among many. In that sense the creation of a sense of community becomes difficult. But that's not to say there aren't communities of communities within London. It takes time to become a part of them, but I think our diversity is part of what makes the city so great, and what makes London so attractive to non-Londoners. Most of us might all come from somewhere else, but over time we become Londoners. Our ways of doing things rub off on newcomers, and if and when we go back to our places of origin, we carry that badge with us. There is a gap between rich and poor, but what city doesn't have that? Not everyone needs a 'City' job nor wants one. Aspirations are many, and so are opportunities. No one has to stay here forever. One can always move somewhere else. But I think after living in London, it's very difficult to live anywhere else. It's such an incredible place, something for everyone, especially if you're young and well-educated. If anything we need worry less about upwardly mobile and ambitious newcomers than children raised in London who, judging from both sensational headlines and more sobering statistical evidence, seem to be have a much lower quality of life than children elsewhere in Europe.
Posted by: Amar Baines on 25/08/07 at 08:14PM

No. London is a city driven by the property market and the financial services sector. It's a commercial city and perhaps it always has been. There may be alot of arts and cultural events to go to, but this is not what makes the city tick. Perhaps that is something inherent in the nature of the British that founded it - they are good at banking and financial services, they are good at planning, and they are entrepreneurial. What is lacking in London is a real community. There are, for sure, ethnic communities, gay communities, rich communities. But they don't really communicate with each other much. Life in London is too mobile and people move away too quickly for a community feeling across London to develop. I have talked to people who are sociable by nature, but even they feel lonely here because neighbours are mistrustful of each other and because things move too quickly. I live in London because of the diversity, not the unity, and because I was born in greater London. There are lots of opportunities and people here and places to see. I have participated in the property market because it was cheaper (at that time) than renting. But London is just the heart of capitalism - it started here. Not here will you feel a really soulful people or a community spirit or unity and it's a great shame.
Posted by: ElisabethJ on 23/08/07 at 07:20PM

I'm european but i don't feel myself at home neither in London neither in the UK. This is the only city/country in which i have such a weird feeling. You love saying bad things about Paris and France or Germany but they are much more advanced than londoners. Cities and people is not all about money and economical growth. Despite having all the cultural facilities the londoners are ignorant. They don't know anything about Europe or people in general. They know about money and spending money, not about people and cultures. It's a shame... and for myself London is not Europe. Maybe it's something halfway between Europe and the US, but definitely not Europe (that's why europeans in general don't like british people). This is what i see in here.
Posted by: Tiago Leitão on 23/08/07 at 04:23PM

Living in London for almost 3 years now, not too long and not too short. Coming from a very closely knit community in the so-called far east, I do realise the inhabitants in this city has the most hectic and hurried lifestyle. People tend to be too busy caring for their ownself. Individualism is very common in London. Despite so much developments and probably because of them, London is the place to be to earn a prosperous living, on a temporary basis or permanent. Pounds being the strongest currency does helps a lot. On the other hand, it can be seen as something negative. Is there something of a London-ness? Having or not, I think it's probably lost due to the intense integration of other cultures into the city or probably that is what London is about?
Posted by: Richard Foo on 19/07/07 at 11:18PM

With more than half the world's population living in cities it is time to really reconsider what urban life actually means. Not living in a city is becoming less of an option and this means that with bigger cities the diversity of urban life will potentially grow, whilst at the same time there will me a force towards homogeneity. From a financial perspective the city offers an economy of agglomeration, but as we so often lose sight of in what in many respects is still a Thatcherite Britain is that there is more to life than things economic. There is naturally stratification in cities, because the city increasingly is our society, but along with this too comes social mobility with all its incongruities. Inequality measures such as the Gini coefficient might show that inequality is increasing even though prosperity is improving - and this has to be better than prosperity decreasing. Yet, if we 'buy' into the fruits of Thatcherite Britain, then it will take time for greater prosperity to address the have-nots in our society - at least we appear to be a little more socially minded than those at the other end of the poodle leash. If we can keep one eye on where we are headed as well as one eye on the guy next to us, perhaps we have a chance, that is until we experience the next big vulnerability of cities, which might or might not affect us, be it flooding, terrorism, epidemic etc, or God forbid, a combination of more than one at the same time.
Posted by: Andrew Lee on 01/07/07 at 07:18PM

Some time ago, the American critic Michael Sorkin wrote that urban policy in New York City benefited only three classes of people: the rich, the very rich, and the extremely rich. The same seems true of London today. London’s always been a city of inequalities. But I don’t think ever before has there been such an impoverished idea of what society should strive for. When the only thing of value is wealth creation (appropriation?), and when investing in society is subordinate to corporate profits (what Goldman Sachs has left over will go, maybe, into building a school …) little wonder that things go a askew between people and bicycle tyres - and more - get slashed. What I see and feel around me in London is an assault waged on ordinary life by the needs of something we mistakenly call the “economy”. I agree with the woman speaking from the audience who said something along the lines that life for Londoners has become terribly difficult. I’d say that most of us really are exhausted by the requirement to bend to capital’s needs, plus we’re exhausted by the fear generated by ceaseless talk of terror. We’re also tired of seeing obscene amounts of money poured into monotonous and alienating construction that is “convenient” for global finance but deadening for more human-scale living. Wealth is great of course. At least the rich have the luxury of time and space for truly creative thinking. Unfortunately, it seems they’re just as likely to be arrogant and to cherish the convenient belief that greed is part of human nature. Well, no it isn’t. I hope this mistaken belief doesn’t completely get the upper hand in shaping London's future.
Posted by: Eeva Berglund on 23/06/07 at 11:32AM

I attended this debate, and I must say that I was disappointed that most of the discussion revolved around economic disparity in the city. While this is certainly a contentious issue, and one that should be discussed, I believe that the issues of inequality and unity run much deeper than economic status. I am a student from the United States studying architecture, and I have only been in London for five weeks, so you can take my comments about this city for what you will. But I would argue that the root of the animosity and resentment that the lower classes have for "the rich" is generated, in part, by the infrastructure and architecture of the city itself. At tonight's debate, Saskia Sassen stated that inequality is "wired into" the economic structure of the city. I believe that inequality is also inherent in the physical environment of the city. While in London, I have lived at the Carlton Gate apartments, on Admiral Walk, off Harrow Road, near Little Venice. I have heard (but have not had confirmed) that this area of the city is notorious for drug trafficking. So I would assume that this is not the type of neighborhood in which most Londoners would choose to live. Yet, in the middle of this environment are the Carlton Gate apartments, a middle to upper-middle class neighborhood. These flats are completely separated from the street by an eight-foot high brick wall, broken only by entry gates that require a keycard. To enter, you must either have a card or pass through the security gate of the main entrance. It has become clear to me that while the residents of this neighborhood live on Harrow Road, they want no part of the culture or social environment that surrounds them. The brick wall is merely the physical manifestation of the perceptual barrier felt between the "poor" and the "rich." Architectural barriers such as this wall engender the feelings of resentment that the lower classes feel towards the higher classes and directly inhibit any form of the positive social interaction that must occur in a united and healthy city. Until these barriers are dissolved, London will never be a united city, regardless of the economic gap.
Posted by: Brett on 23/06/07 at 01:30AM

London can never be 'united'. Even the idea of 'united' seems like some word from a bygone age. United around what, or whom, or even why 'united'? Even trying to 'answer' this question is like trying to whistle in the wind. I suspect that most people don't experience 'London' as a 'booming' city. We might see (media) representations that suggest this is the case. But most people just experience the difficulties that nearly everyone faces in trying to live and work in any city. A more serious, and pragmatic, question might ask how do people form communities? Literally, how do people form communities and sustain them.
Posted by: Tony Hall on 07/06/07 at 09:12AM
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From the blog today - Oona King on multiculturalism.
Posted by: Kieran Long on 06/06/07 at 04:46PM

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