UCL News


UCL in the News: London Voices, London Lives

29 August 2007

A vivid picture of everyday life across London - this most dynamic, fast-moving of cities - is what I have tried to capture in my book London Voices, London Lives.

It is an account, in their own words, of the people who live and work in the city.

Perhaps because our research took us to places that attracted more than their share of newcomers (most of whom were immigrants) we found many people who were struggling to make ends meet. …

Again and again, the basic London divide is between those who have the resources to contemplate buying their own home and those who depend on social housing. In the areas of social housing we looked at, both old residents and new residents found they had little or no control over their lives, leaving them in housing they hated. …

It clearly mattered to almost everyone that they felt comfortable and settled in their local neighbourhood, with a general sense of physical security and with neighbours they felt were congenial and to whom they could turn in an emergency. In this sense, you might say that almost all Londoners across the eight areas in which we carried out our interviews shared middle-class values. Most did have such a sense of living a good life in a good neighbourhood but a minority clearly felt they did not, and sometimes this seemed to cloud their entire view of their world, giving them a general sense of insecurity and anxiety. …

What has happened in London in recent years is simply that the extent and the speed of such changes has become much greater, affecting many more areas rapidly. And since we finished our interviews, the process seems to have become even more frenetic. But perhaps this is London's quasi-permanent condition, as true of the 1890s age of immigration, or of the 1930s spread of semi-detached suburbs, as it is today.

Professor Sir Peter Hall (UCL Bartlett School), 'The Guardian'