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The Greatest City Debate

Monday 12 July 2010, 09:30

Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick Head of Interactive, Radio 3

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The #GreatestCity debate took place this morning at 0900 and hundreds of you joined in here on the blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. Four World Cities squared up for the big fight. Laurie Taylor chaired, four city lovers made the case for their favourites - London, Mumbai, New York and Istanbul - and an audience in the Radio Theatre (in the heart of London, it goes without saying) decided. And the winner was Mumbai.

You can now 'replay' the chat while listening to the programme on the iPlayer.

And once you've listened, please do us a favour and leave a comment on this blog post (using your BBC login) to tell us what you thought of the chat and the programme.

Steve Bowbrick is editor of the Radio 4 blog

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    Comment number 1.

    Only the BBC could do a whole series on London and not mention England once - but then it's part of the BBC's agenda to deny the existence of England.

    London is not "another country" despite what idiots like Ken Livingstone think. It was the capital of England before the so called "United Kingdom" came into existence and it will be the capital of England when the "UK" is consigned to the history books.

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    Comment number 2.

    Cities are the centres of civilisation.

    Civilisation doesn't happen in the country.

    Unlike many, I have a dream of retiring into Central London, how much better to be surrounded by theatres and art galleries and people than to be in the middle of nowhere.

    I am from London, I moved to Surrey to raise my family, but my desire to move home makes me sad. I feel like a piece of me is missing, I'm not quite alive.

    I'm a Londoner first and foremost, I'm not from England or the UK.

    I also love New York... it's the only place a true Londoner can go on holiday and feel at home.

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    Comment number 3.

    London? I live here...
    1 Go to Camden High Street - filthy, no trees, no pedestrian facilites - just traffic...bookies, chicken rib shops and the rest increasingly derelict.
    2 I walked from Soho to Camden Town on Saturday and it was literally full of drunks standing up all over pavements, swaying with their protruding beer bellies outside endless horrible, over rated pubs.
    3 Air quality? the worst in Europe.
    4 oxford street - hideous!
    I am off to Paris today - now there is a city - especially in summer when its Mayor puts on fabulous events and all free and well organised.

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    Comment number 4.

    I have just heard convincing evidence from a contributor:
    "1 in 3 Londoners are born abroad, 40% on-line".
    On-line births WOW!

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    Comment number 5.

    @Julian Batcheler

    "I'm a Londoner first and foremost, I'm not from England or the UK."

    Of course you're welcome to define yourself as you will but you are in denial. London is geographically and culturally part of England. This idea that London is somehow apart from or can exclude the people of England outside London is offensive. It's our capital city too.

    Our London, our England.

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    Comment number 6.

    In general I enjoyed the concept of the programme, and think it would worth repeating with other cities. It was however difficult to get the full names of the four "city lovers" speaking for their cities; you only put Laurie Taylor's name here, and the names were not given in full at the end of the programme as one would have expected. I had to hunt on the Radio 4 website to find them. The programme was rather spoilt for me by Nikki Bedi's constant and loud interruptions of other panelists. She sure is full of herself! Also, as a former BBC presenter she has an inside track; was the audience really fairly selected? Her overwhelming victory for Mumbai came across as a bit of a stitch-up to me. I thought Maureen Freely made the best and most convincing contribution, and I wish her Istanbul had won.


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    Comment number 7.

    After comments on this "Great Debate" were sought on Twitter, I sent my thoughts in and have been asked to repost them here on the blog:

    As a fan of many other things related to Radio 4, I follow R4's Twitter feed to gain insight in all things R4. However, a lot of the hashtagged comments from yesterday were getting RTed to everyone and flooding the screen. This particular event held no interest for me at all; greatest city, country, cheese, whatever - it all ends in tears as those for one place are often vehemently against the others, and in the end no-one wins.

    Therefore, can all R4 tweeters please be trained in the proper use of the ReTweet button? If tweets are copy/pasted and preceded by "RT" then they go out to everyone, but if you click ReTweet then uninterested parties like myself can have them filtered out if we set our preferences appropriately on the Twitter webpage. Of course this won't clear the event entirely from our screens but it will keep the unimportant stuff to a minimum.

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    Comment number 8.

    I must confess to being priveleged to have lived in three of the four cities in competition. For me New York comes first, because it is a truly global melting pot and everybody is a somebody and for its bookshops/libraries where I spend my weekends; London, next because of its lungs of green space, art and culture and most of all its radio (4)which I listen to as much as I can. Mumbai because it was where I was born....a burgeoning city full of dynamism, but she still has a way to go to become a truly global city. Sadly I have yet to explore Istanbul, but do hope to in the not too distant future.

    Kudos to Radio 4 for the programme

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    Comment number 9.

    I just want to say how much I agree with "englandrise" @8.42; but should like to add that I thought the result of the "vote" was predictable. Sociologist Laurie Taylor was always going to favour the east as opposed to western capitals, while the mouthy Nikki Bedi practically drowned out the other contributors.

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    Comment number 10.

    OK I don't recognise the London that the 'London' and New York reps talked about - I live in East London, Hackney, which I think is very friendly. When you see someone squinting at an A-Z someone invariably stops to help, the shop keepers all call me 'love' and smile, I live in a shared ownership block of flats and know most of my neighbours and for the past 4 years we've had a block party every May Day. I love that I can cycle everywhere, that transport is easy, that I don't need a car and that there are independent shops & farmers markets everywhere!

    I do think the best person won though - Mumbai sounded easily the nicest on the debate!

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    Comment number 11.

    Thanks, everyone, for your feedback and, JustHere4Coffee, I take your point about Twitter frequency. I'm using the 'new' retweet feature but often want to edit the outgoing tweet - adding a hashtag or a programme URL, for instance - this means I'll often want to RT in the old way. I guess I should campaign for a new 'new' retweet, that permits editing.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

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    Comment number 13.

    Didn't hear the debate but have lived in London, have family in Mumbai, spent a lot of time in Istanbul and have been to New York.
    Of the four Istanbul has by far the most beautiful buildings and is probably the most beautiful of all the four.
    London is a true melting pot unlike New York where there is segregation at all levels. The skyscrapers may be awesome but London has free art galleries and museums. London for me is the truly GLOBAL CITY and has it's finger on the pulse. New York may have been the city of the 20th century but it isn't anymore.
    Mumbai-what a toilet! Horrible climate and a grotesque disparity between rich and poor, and I have to stay there when I go to India. It's dirty and though modernisation is occuring, only a select few benefit.
    Istanbul-lovely place to wander, a marvel of history and many other things.It's cheaper than London and New York.
    I love Istanbul but London is the greatest city.
    Mumbai won- it's like saying Ashley Cole won Humanitarian of the Year award.

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    Comment number 14.

    I love London, in spite of it being a noisy, cramped, polluted and grubby environment.The pace of life is slightly too fast,I think is to blame for the a worn,impatient look, you see on many Londoners faces. Conversely,The traffic moves at the speed of a clogged Artery,and there is a fair bit of relative poverty; and yet so many different people manage to jostle along together without too much of fuss. Whenever I travel away, I feel like I am going back in time. Things seem less contemporary. The buildings, infrastructures,the facilities, the cosmopolitan people and attitudes are rarer outside. There is a sense of belonging to a Tribe. I can generally recognise a Londoner outside our common habitat. I forget who said Cities are a place of Maximum Human exchange, I cannot help thinking they must have visited London.


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