What does contemporary London represent and who is it represented by? How has migration affected the landscape of a world city like London? With 40% of Londoners today born abroad, what is the reality of many people who live and work here? Is this a city divided? Join us for a captivating interview and discussion with Ben Judah.
Opening the Season 2 of our People and Politics series, this year under the title “Tribes Divided: How to Bridge the Gap”, Ben will be speaking about his recent book “This is London: Life and Death in the World City”. Following his 2013 book “Fragile Empire” on Putin’s Russia, this time he decided to use the skill set of a foreign correspondent to report on a much closer, yet similarly unknown to the public, story: the reality of many desperate low-skilled immigrants to London.
The book was described by the Guardian as an “epic account of contemporary London”. Rachel Cooke in the New Statesman has also said the book “should be mandatory reading for every MP… On every page lies an uncomfortable truth… It is a book that demonstrably improves the eyesight. Read it, and the streets will look different: I guarantee it.”
In This is London, Judah spends time with drug dealers fighting turf wars. He joins London’s most recent arrivals, sleeping with Romanian beggars at Hyde Park Corner and living in a slum bedsit with itinerant workers looking for cash-in-hand from the building trade. This is London is remarkable for the way Judah tells the stories of those normally forgotten: the Romanian prostitute whose friend was murdered; the Afghan youth smuggled into the UK fuelled by the dream of a new life in Neasden (see The Independent for the full review).
Interviewing Ben will be an EU migrant – Jakub Krupa. Jakub is the UK Correspondent for the Polish Press Agency, leading the agency’s coverage of the EU referendum on June 23. He studied at the University of Warsaw and the London School of Economics and Political Science.
What does it mean for an old city like London to be once again renewed in such a way by a wave of migration? What can we believe about the statistics in the media and those offered by politicians? What divides exist in London between the glamorous experiences of the migrant rich and oligarchs against the daily challenges of the Transport of London cleaners, builders and housmaids?
Join us for a fascinating conversation on the ever-changing multitude of people that make up a fundamental part of this city! All guests will have the opportunity to ask questions.
Some reviews of “This is London”
“Ben Judah’s epic account of contemporary London is similarly motivated by a desire to show our capital in its true (new) colours: as a megacity of global migrants, some of them rich, most of them poor, few of them happy with their lot…. He is brilliant at getting people to speak: the London Underground cleaner; the Polish builder; the Egyptian heiress; the Filipina housemaid; the imam who washes the bodies of the dead; the teacher; the carer; the gang leader ….In a few cases Judah gets so close to his protagonists that he writes as if from inside their heads…” Blake Morrison, The Guardian
“He has a knack for getting close to people, for getting them to open their hearts…..It is hard to overstate the value of what Judah has done, or his courage in seeking out the capital’s darkest places. It is one thing to read the statistics about London becoming a city of migrants, legal and illegal; it is quite another to see the consequences. This Is London is an important and impressive book – one that should open our eyes to the price that others often pay for our comfort.” Robert Colvile, The Telegraph
“Above all, though, he listens to the stories of those normally forgotten…Judah has succeeded in opening reader’s eyes to the hardships experienced by many and ignored by most.” Oliver Poole, The Independent
“There’s more than a touch of George Orwell in Judah’s grimy tour. He shares Orwell’s appetite for fieldwork and documenting parts of society that are easily overlooked — for going native in his own country, to borrow an image from V. S. Pritchett…But the real strength of This is London is the intimacy of its portraits…this vision of ‘the world city’ is compassionate, fresh and courageous.” Henry Hitchings, The Spectator