Speaker by Various Artists

Not anywhere else in the world

by Stella Duffy

I think Ken Livingstone's speech was amazing, and I DO believe it's what most Londoners feel about London. That we (I was born here, though I spent all my childhood and youth in NZ and have now lived here longer than anywhere else) actively like being many types/races/religions/classes/wealths of people here. That the mix is one of the major benefits of London, certainly not a detraction.

I also thought this morning that what we experienced yesterday was quite minor - though of course ghastly and life-changing for those involved - compared to the daily bombardments Iraqis are still facing - both from our 'allied' troops, and from the constant threat of their 'own' suicide bombers. Not for a moment suggesting any tit for tat (on either side) is ok, but that maybe our experience here will encourage us to be more generous about the sufferings of others.

I probably am biased, my Mum lived here through WW2 (except when she was stationed away in army), she was bombed out of three different houses, and even while she was acknowledging the looting etc that went on then too, she always talked with great pride about London's resilience.

I think one of the things Andrea Levy captured so well in her award-wining novel Small Island is that it wasn't merely simple racism that made the average Londoner not especially welcoming to Windrush immigrants in the 50s.

It was also pure misunderstanding. Post-war London was so poor and so damaged and so ... bleak ... that the idea anyone would WANT to come here amazed them. (As well as all the racist reasons!) They simply didn't know why people were coming here then.

But no matter what the state of London, this city has ALWAYS had people coming in. (My cousin's young daughter arrives from Wellington next week!) The mix, the clear and obvious mix that you see every day on the streets, in the pubs, in the shops, is one of London greatest assets. I think its one of the things that those of us who CHOOSE to live here appreciate it for. And that's why I think we'll continue to be more 'pro-multiethnic'. Whenever I'm out of London, in the rest of the UK, especially countryside UK, I realise how weird I feel to be only in white company. We different races and religions and ethnicities don't all live in each others' pockets, we're not necessarily all best of mates with each other, but we do live - for the most part - side by side, and generally harmoniously. I'm proud of that.

This morning I went out to my local South London shops. I talked to the Black (West Indian) newsagent and the Black (British-African) copyshop woman, I bought groceries from the Hindu (British-Indian) grocer, and cherries from the Muslim (British-Pakistani) Halal shop, I walked past the garage owned by Andrew, a Greek man who fixes cars at very short notice and, within five minutes passed a mosque and three different kinds of African evangelical churches. When I came home I walked into my terraced house where I live between Irish and French/French-Canadian neighbours, our garden backing on to what we call still the 'Italians' house', lived in until last year by three generations of one Italian-English family. At seven thirty tomorrow morning I will meet my Kiwi friends at the pub round the corner and watch the All Blacks live.

This city is old, and messy, and dirty, and it doesn't always work properly.

It is overcrowded and stuffed full of incredible people and beautiful things. The South Bank river walks are stunning, the Diana Memorial Fountain is an ludicrous waste of money. It's a vibrant and passionate and often infuriating mix. And it's one of the things I like best about living here. (That and the view from Waterloo Bridge!)

This is a really awful thing that has happened. And I wouldn't choose to live anywhere else in the world.