Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Label Us -- We All Share Our City's History

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Label Us -- We All Share Our City's History

Article excerpt

Byline: Munira Mirza

"LONDON is a roost for every bird," wrote Benjamin Disraeli in 1870. The idea of a vast metropolis pulling in people of every class and creed, offering experiences and opportunities unimaginable elsewhere, has always been a big part of London's appeal.

What was true then is true now: every new arrival in the capital has the chance to work hard, put down roots and become a Londoner.

Understanding and sharing the past brings us together. This is the inspiration behind the Mayor's new festival, launched today, to celebrate London's past, present and future. The Story of London will run throughout June, with more than 400 events in every corner of the capital.

London has been at the centre of great events for more than 1,000 years. The past is alive in the buildings that surround us.

We can stand in front of Traitors' Gate and imagine Anne Boleyn being escorted through it on her way to incarceration and execution in the Tower on the orders of her husband, Henry VIII. Next year, when Transport for London reopens the East London line, we will be able to travel through the Thames Tunnel, the world's oldest tunnel under a navigable river, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his father.

What is more, this was a multicultural city long before it became fashionable for policy-makers to talk about "community cohesion" or "diversity". Disraeli lived the dream, rising from Jewish immigrant roots to become one of 19th-century England's finest statesmen. Nor was he unique: Roman centurions, Sussex maidservants, Flemish weavers, Scottish noblemen, Lancastrian farmhands, Chinese sailors and Welsh lawyers all made their home in this few square miles by the Thames.

We're holding the Story of London because, as a city, we rarely celebrate this history in a way that brings us together. …

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