Thursday, September 22, 2005

inside LDN


IMG_0568
Originally uploaded by Blackdown.
“… passively coexisting ethnic and religious communities”

Interesting to see The Commission for Racial Equality’s head Trevor Phillips speaking out against the threat of ghettos. Is it me, or is Phillips the only person in the UK capable of making such warning with such impact? Because when Wiley says the same on pirate radio, no one with the power to affect change listens.

London’s a frustrating and mesmerising city, perhaps the only truly multicultural city in the UK. Thousands of different subcultures co-exist, piled on top, around, through, over and in-between each other. For many years architects and town planners have attempted to mix not segregate, hence why there are council estates just off wealthy areas like Upper Street or the heart of Dulwich.

Yet despite the geographical proximity and intense population density (over 7 million people in 50 square miles), in many ways total cultural isolation is a reality. It’s an endlessly confounding phenomenon. How can one group walk past another incalculable numbers of times a year, and gather no sense of the other’s values?

Canary Wharf and the City are east London’s wealthy business districts, two of the financial centres of the world and places where on a daily basis, sums of money are created, destroyed, flow in and flow out in mind numbing proportions. Commuters in their droves match that flow, washing in from Kent, Surrey, west London, north London, Hertfordshire and beyond.

Canary Wharf, one of only two real ‘sky scraper’ style developments in London, towers over some of the poorest parts of London. You can see it on the cover of Target’s Aim High 2 DVD, just minutes from Roll Deep’s ‘Whilehouse’ base. You can see it from Langden Park school playing fields in Bow, where as a pupil, Dizzee Rascal learnt Cubase while excluded from most other lessons. But just because Canary Wharf is visible from Bow, doesn’t mean Bow is visible from Canary Wharf.

If you asked any of the commuters coming in on those trains each morning about urban culture, you’d get blank looks. Physical proximity means nothing. Values, aspirations, opportunities, slang – there’s no exchange between these two groups. Two groups who essentially live on top of each other, yet are utterly oblivious to each other. Communities - upbringing and background based not location based - are in fact vast webs of reinforcing values, each physically overlaid on each other, yet seemingly seldom touching.

Lots of people grew up to, and still listen to, indie. If you go to those gigs, ignoring the obvious issues with musical formulism and tediously safe rituals, even in this city they are tediously monocultural. A thin slice of people of the same class and race, each reinforcing their overwhelming similarities.

Personally I think this is why I love urban music so much. Through it, a dialog between different cultures is at least possible, because it provides a shared language to bridge the divide. It creates some dialog and awareness, no matter how small.

No one 'on road' uses the word ‘politics’ in the Westminster sense. In grime if you want to hear ‘the news,’ you listen to Roll Deep on Rinse, surely grime’s Today Program. Trevor Phillips hasn’t made it to Rinse yet, instead he was on the other Today Program again this morning. His best point seemed to be that people need to focus on similarities not differences. I’d agree, though in this city, people need to focus on understanding those who are different to them a bit more than those who are similar too.

14 comments:

boomnoise said...

spot on piece martin. this is something which has frustrated me for sometime. the reason i moved to london from newcastle was for diversity but diversity isn't equatable to coexisting. i think this problem exists within grime, certainly within our internet community. i would like to raise serious questions about the way grime is observed rather than interacted with. consumption flow is very much one way and integration is minimal. you could put this down to the lack of grime events, or the fact that radio is the main medium of grime and is inherently insular, but this is, of course, tied up with the british class system; and now this is becoming increasingly visable as a system based on race. we should tear down these attitudes and socially contructed ghettos. i want to see one london not community fractals.

LethalFizzle said...

good piece but let's be real, this idea that roll deep on rinse are 'the news' is just as OTT as chuck d saying hip hop was the black cnn.

Hotflush said...

hilarious piece.

gonzo the gormless said...

Lethalfizzle you're totally missing the point.

Imagine if Roll Deep did infact deliver the news. Every show could start with Wiley reporting live from E3. "Today in Bow...I, um, yeah, ate breakfast then, um, y'know, did a ting..."

Taliban Trim could be their embedded war correspndent. Riko, an avid football fan, could read the sports results and Scratchie and Flow-dan could do overseas reports, with Scratch in search of the yeti.

Martin, you are such a fucking plum...

LethalFizzle said...

some very good ideas there, gonzo. i think skepta could come in with the ohmydiddy report, a weekly report on the glamorous activities of one p.diddy.

Damn_Son said...

Yeah, good piece M - just thought I'd an something to what you said about the planners building such different environments on top of each other - I think its worth noticing the physical difference between the way the two diffenent areas are designed.

As you say "in this city, people need to focus on understanding those who are different to them a bit more than those who are similar too" - I also think the planning shouldn't exaggerate and enhance the feeling of 'ghetto' - as it does - badly designed dystopian communities, all piss-stained lifts and stairwells (ok, so they weren't piss-stained when they were built, but I'm pretty sure the estates off essex road didn't look like Disneyland when they were built...).

You kinda wondered how anyone thought these estates would be a alright areas to live in the first place.

Hands Peter said...

Ere, Blackboy, just turn the sound down, will you? the more you write the less you have to say. You seem to be really, really good at stating the absolutely bleeding obvious. And really, really bad at everything else, namely writing anything coherent other than your own name.

Canary Wharf is really high, right - in fact, it's a skyscraper, as you so helpfully point out. So it follows, does it not, that from up high you would be able to see Bow and everything around it quite easily. To put that in a language you understand - seeing as you're so fond of talking in empty metaphors - you'd be able to the bigger picture more clearly from up in Canary Wharf than blackdown in Bow.

BTW. If you'd really done your research you'd know that Trevor Phillips actually coined the term 'on road' as a young Marxist radical in the Labour Party of the 1970s. Respeck 2 yr elders. Brapple!

LethalFizzle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LethalFizzle said...

trevor phillips is BIG really, more people should give him respect. no one else says the stuff he does.

Hotflush said...

warning: never test the blackdown he is always right

Blackdown said...

thanks for that Hands Peter. why is it that whenever people wanna have a go, they do it from behind bait fake log-ins that lead to dead end not-blogs? wow, you're big.

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