London – long seen as one of the strongest city brands in the world – is facing some serious challenges. Angela Howarth, Head of Communications at Future Cities Catapult, blogs about our fair city.
Brexit and its negative headlines in the global media are slowly casting a shadow over our fair city. Meanwhile, housing and the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster are also posing major challenges.
At the same time, London is trying to attract high-growth startups, researchers and entrepreneurs from around the world. How to explain to them that the UK is still a great place to start a global business or hire the best talent?
The London Conference tackled all these subject, and focused on ways to make London a more fair and inclusive city.
Here are my three takeaways from the day:
- London and Brexit
My favourite quote from the Brexit discussions was by ex-Labour spin doctor Lord Peter Mandelson “anything the government is doing on the industrial strategy will be eclipsed by .”
His view was that a lot of people come to London because of its access to the European Single Market, without that, its reduced in relevance.
Additionally, Mandelson wanted Parliament to take back control. The complexity and real implications were not anticipated during the referendum, the facts were not presented to people at the time.
- Grenfell Tower five months on
Emily reflected on the night she covered the fire, what she learned and what she still wanted to know. The streets were pedestrianised, and there was a great sense of community.
People used journalists as messengers to tell firemen there were pizzas waiting for them in Ladbroke Grove. Everyone was trying to do something.
Co-incidentally the number of victims who died in the fire was confirmed as 80 on the day of the conference.
Emily concluded with a silver lining: Grenfell was a tragedy but also a reminder of what happens when communities come together and the good side of human nature. The Grenfell Tower fire highlighted some of London’s starkest inequalities.
- Startup City
Attracting entrepreneurs from the UK and abroad, startups make a vital contribution to the capital’s economy. Suzanne Hall from LSE presented her latest research looking at high streets and the employment they offer.
Two thirds of Londoners live within 5 minutes of a high street, they offer employment to marginalised workers and accommodate 47% of businesses outside central London.
In a comparison exercise, Peckham high street provides 13,400 jobs compared with Westfield Stratford’s total of 8,800 jobs. It was fascinating information and begs the question how can policy and planning meet business needs.
Our fair city’s future
Future Cities Catapult sponsored the Centre for London’s prestigious London Conference this year, which brings together leaders from across the capital with national and international figures to discuss the future of our city, focusing on how to work towards making London a fair and inclusive city.
I attended in my role as Head of Communications at Future Cities Catapult, whose mission is to advance urban innovation, grow UK companies and make cities better.
This year, I’m coming up to my 17th birthday of being a Londoner. And despite its challenges and tribulations, I’m still loving and optimistic about the future of our fair city.
Read the live blog from the London Conference.