A London Symphony

Laaaaahndan, ver city that I love

Running through the South Bank fountains on a toddlers Like-a-Bike

Running through the South Bank fountains on a toddlers Like-a-Bike

Dalston House: Climbing or Art? It's a matter of perspective

Dalston House: Climbing or Art? It’s a matter of perspective


I went to a Promenade Concert last night (or actually two) at the Royal Albert Hall, and heard Vaughan Williams’ The London Symphony’ – and it got me thinking about the city I’ve lived in for most of my adult life.

I’ve moved about, to Victoria Park, Wapping (twice), Bethnal Green, Bermondsey, Dalston (ish), Hampstead, Belsize Park, Tufnell Park, Archway and latterly an area of scrubland between Highbury, Stoke Newington, and Finsbury Park that I like to call home.

aah.  My lovely city.  And I’ve worked in Camden, St James Park (or wherever Channel 4 is…), White City, the Aldwych, the South Bank and Victoria.

But it feels like I’m only scratching the surface. I hardly know ANY of it.  At this rate I’ll be dead without ever visiting Penge.  It’s a bloody tragedy. I do my best to get around (tomorrow, football at Wembley, Friday getting merry on the South Bank…), but it’s impossible.

And we forget how much we can be dominated by this place.  I realise that the last 4 books I’ve read have been all about London.

Let’s see:

David Mitchell – Back Story.  He walks from home to the BBC, talking about his life through the buildings he passes.  London is where smart creative people like him move to, regardless of where they start.  Includes more mentions of Swiss Cottage than I expected.

David Mitchell. (Not the Cloud Atlas one). Belongs in London.

David Mitchell. (Not the Cloud Atlas one). Gravitates to and through London.

It's MURDER.  And actually rather a good book.

It’s MURDER. In London. And actually rather a good book.

Being an arsehole.  But his sister seems LOVELY

Being an arsehole in London eateries. But his sister seems LOVELY

Son of a docker. Because being young and a Laaahndahner is always cool

Son of a docker. Because being young and a Laaahndahner is always cool









Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) – The Cuckoo Calling – a novel about the death of a model in Mayfair.  London as the centre of news, fashion, style, money, energy…  Covers all sorts of people – yuppies, soldiers, the homeless, paparazzi Soho-types, ethnic minorities…  No wizards.

Giles Coren – How to Eat Out.  London, the centre of food.  And the best place where you can get ahead with an arsey attitude.  Melting pot of cultures, and discrete classes of diners, waiters and cooks.

Danny Baker – Going to Sea in a Sieve.  A romantic memoir of growing up in an ‘appy but poor working class community in South East London.  London, the centre of youth and music culture for generations.  Makes being poor and outside Central London sound cool.

I know.  I should stop reading books by media people and try something more challenging.  But they all reinforce the magic of this amazing place.

Once the view from my desk. Big Ben through the London Eye.  Imagine that.

Once the view from my desk. Big Ben through the London Eye. Imagine that.

What has this got to do with TV Audiences?

One of this coalition government’s less controversial policies was the launch of 19 local news services around Britain.  Those of us in London will get to see London Live, the winner of the franchise process in the capital in a few months.  Isn’t that exciting?  It has felt a little peculiar that while every two-bit US community can manage a bevy of local stations, and countries smaller and poorer than London can have many national channels.  But what does London have?  None!  (unless you feel that all TV stations in the UK are basically London-focused).

And then you start to worry.  The BBC’s local radio stations average around 20% outside London, and 4% within it.  BBC Radio London covers 27% of England’s population but only attracts 3.7% of the BBC’s radio listening.  There’s far more competition in London, but still.

And ITV’s regional news tends to be less popular in London than elsewhere.

So it’s an exciting challenge, but it won’t be easy.

But the wonderful challenge for the team working on London Live (full disclosure, the mother of the boy on the wooden bike – my son – works for them), is to come up with programmes that mobilise Londoners to talk. To feel at home. To feel a connection. To join in with the full London experience.  To feel reassured that the city is safe for their family.  But exciting too.  To enjoy stories about our neighbours.

To create a symphony in which we feel we can make a small noise.

We Londoners like to claim that London is the best city in the world. We’ll know that’s true when it has its own TV channel, and one that helps life-long Londoners (and the rest of us) to feel that we belong.