The Future of London


Saturday night I went on the excellent Russell Brand Show on BBC Radio2 to debate with Rainbow George who is trying to persuade Russell to stand for Mayor of London. Now Rainbow George is a bona fide London character, should HV Morton or Gordon S Maxwell be chronicling the London of today I’m sure they’d seek George out. He’s the Hampstead eccentric who as Peter Cook’s neighbour taped over 100 hours of their conversations. He also claimed ownership of his Hampstead mansion after his landlord disappeared, he sold it for £710,000 3 years ago and has since blown it all on his political campaigns.
So really maybe he has a vision of London that we could learn from.
Sadly he offered Russell only a series of poetic puns based on a new currency of Gasps and Wonders issued by the Bank of a Zillion Wonders. Other than that his vision is for a “Brand Spanking New London Party. The transformation of London into an inter-dependent leisure oriented – self-governing cash-free wonder City with Hampstead as its capital”
I’m afraid I gave George short shrift, I invited him to advocate the collectivisation of private assets and he returned to Gasps and Wonders. A Squatter City is far more appealing to me than a Wonder City – which we already have.

Thinking about the Mayoral election and George’s bonkers take on it did make me go back to William Margrie of the London Explorers Club. He had a vision for London and maybe Rainbow George could take a leaf out of his book. This is what he wrote on 1934:
The Metropolitan Free State
“London government is muddle-headed, chaotic, idiotic.”
The Metropolitan Free State will include Greater London and five or six Home Counties and the Thames.
– emulate Mussolini and give Londoners plenty of dramas, pageants and shows to wake them up
– if one wants to do anything important in this stodgy world he must be a realistic artist
– foster local spirit and patriotism by means of art, music, flower shows, and athletic combats

And what was I going to propose you may well ask, well this is what I scribbled down in my notebook on my way to the Great Portland Street studios:
– ban all traffic from the congestion charge zone and grass it over
– promote and subsidize walking as primary means of transport
– no new buildings – there are around 75,000 empty homes in London – turn them over to Squatters Groups
– planning decisions to be based on principles of psychogeography with the preservation of the city’s natural topography to be given special priority
– The recovery of London’s lost rivers of the Fleet, the St. Clement’s, the Walbrook, The Langbourne, the Oldbourne, the Effra, the Ravensbourne, and the Hackney Brook with the digging up of roads etc. where necessary
– Scrap the Olympics
– An annual parade of the ‘Mocking of The Rich’ with the unfortunates of the city to lead a procession through Mayfair, Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea (see Class War’s Notting Hill ‘Toffs Out’ march on November 3rd)

london

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