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WHYS - 24/08/07 - London blogger...

James Harrod | 14:26 UK time, Tuesday, 14 August 2007

owenpowell.jpgPreparations are well underway for an ambitious edition of WHYS on 24th August. As part of the BBC World Service's "London Week", we're asking: Is London the best role model for a multicultural city?

We're simulcasting with four other radio stations, in cities which claim to have the most successful example of multiculturalism.

We've asked each city to find us a blogger who loves his/her town, and to post a few lines for us. First up is London - Owen Powell is from WorldInOneCity.blogspot.com...

..."Some people find the thought of London as a 'diverse' or 'multi-cultural' city quite a terrifying one. They worry that British (or English) ideals are being ignored or trampled on, and that 'recent arrivals' are dictating to inhabitants who can proudly trace their London lineage back many generations. But where does the idea of London as a city come from? Short answer: abroad.

The Romans invented the city of London (before them it was huts and swamp); the Normans (French) built its longest-lasting and most popular tourist attraction (the Tower), and a succession of German kings and Dutch merchants presided over its rise in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Then, of course, came Empire, and the immense direct and indirect contribution made by the Asian subcontinent, the Caribbean, and most of Africa. Slave labour, riches and natural resources flowed in and out of the greedy port, adding spice and colour, and continuing the trend of London being at the centre of the world.

Today, by a quirk of geography, financial workers in the City can speak to Tokyo in the morning and LA in the afternoon, and London remains the unofficial capital of the world in economic and cultural terms.

If the best things about being in London are watching Hollywood film premieres in Leicester Square, eating curries on Brick Lane, watching African footballers at Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal, looking at Italian paintings at the National Gallery and listening to Latin American music, then we're already in a global city.

We can't really appropriate and enjoy all these cultures without welcoming and getting to know the people as well. And getting to know people is much more fun than looking at paintings. Or watching Arsenal. And that's just what Alex Horne and I have been doing since October last year. On United Nations Day (which, as you'll know, is October 24th) we started a search to try to find somebody from every country in the world who lives and works in London.

There are 192 members of the UN, and we've currently found 124 of them, from Azerbaijan to Vanuatu. Our story, and the amazing stories of the people we've met, is on Worldinonecity, and we'd be very keen to hear from anyone from any of the countries we're missing."

Owen Powell, August 2007


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