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Stamp. February 2019.

Big City
Welcome to
For thousands of years London has been a bustling port and fast-
growing city, filled with people from all over the world.

London Its history is rich and brutal. From a distant outpost of the
Roman empire it became the seat of a huge empire itself. A tourist
attraction and global financial centre, the fact London's future is in
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION jeopardy hasn't stopped people arriving in their millions to visit and in
their thousands to stay. 

Photo by Jake Hinds on Unsplash

Frustratingly there's no clear way to tell how many of the There's a lot to do and see and buy in London. But it's
British-born people living in London were born in London mostly a two hour round trip to get there - wherever it is,
itself or arrived in London from elsewhere in Britain. My everything seems to take the same amount of time - and
totally anecdotal view is that this number is high - goodness forbid you want to buy a sandwich or a cup of
including myself, my family, many friends, colleagues, coffee once you get there. 
and neighbours. We are of all ethnicities and British
nationality but ended up in London. I arrived six years ago and I'm just about getting to grips
with moving here. With being here. 
There's no guidebook for arriving in London.
For tourists there are the shiny hotspots but once the So welcome to London. Big City is the inaugural issue of
wide-eyed newcomer effect wears off there's a grimness Stamp, dedicated to unravelling some of the complications
that I found it hard to move on from. London is dirty. of London.
London is vast. London is expensive.
Modern-style immigration control began in 1905,
prompted by a perceived growth in the number of
Eastern European Jews arriving in London fleeing
persecution by the Russian Empire.

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Nothing is certain in London
but expense.
The first time I went it was quiet, calm, and very civilised. "I could get used to this,"

Big City
I thought. I don't know what witchcraft had the place under its spell because of
course every time since it has been chaos. 

My sister asked one of the kids in her class where they were going at the weekend.
AN ENCOUNTER WITH "Big City!" he breathed dramatically, suffused with awe. He was referring to
WESTFIELD Westfield Stratford City. 

And for a little kid, it's easy to see why he would call it that. There's playgrounds,
shops, places to eat, the cinema... For a child, it must seem like a pretty great
microcosm. And for adults it's convenient. It doesn't have any of the essential
services of a city but it does have banks, hairdressers, and all manner of retailers.

For parents, there are better facilities than you might find elsewhere - childcare
options, child-friendly places, and truly great baby changing rooms. It's easy to get

It's also soulless. It looks like the other Westfield, it looks like all the other upscale
shopping centres - or they look like it. The floors are always shiny, the lights are
always bright. There are the essential "anchor" shops at either end - the big
brands positioned so people can orient themselves by them. 

It's not an idyll for the retailers. It's a seductive promise of an idyll for shoppers
Image shamelessly stolen from Google. but often a crowded, stressful experience.
Westfield is part of the
159 properties including
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield The group has assets across
93 shopping centres.
group, a Paris-based Europe and North America,
commercial real estate firm. making it Europe's largest
Across 13 countries.
The Westfield portion is property firm thought to be
originally Australian and worth around $72 billion.
With 1.2 billion annual visits.
recently came onboard.
700,000 children live in
poverty in London,
37% of all kids in the

Trust For London Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

However, the bleaker side of that picture seems to be changing for the
better. 2015 statistics on the English indices of deprivation  show that
There are, in fact, two ways about it: London the top five most rapidly improving areas - the areas with the biggest
is one of the richest, most prosperous cities reduction in deprivation from 2010 to 2015 - are all London boroughs.

on earth, with a huge amount of resources, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham, and Haringey were all in the 20
most deprived areas in the country in 2010 but are not in 2015. (The
assets, and incredibly wealthy people.
fifth borough being Greenwich, which wasn't in the lower 20.)

This is great but there is a cloud to the silver lining. Firstly, this is all
It's also home to some of the most
relative deprivation.
impoverished people in the country, many of
Secondly, it doesn't do much for the people in those boroughs who do
the most deprived areas in the country, live in poverty - children who will carry the repercussions their whole
staggering levels of inequality and suffering, lives, the stress and health effects for adults, disabled and other more
vulnerable people. They are unlikely to be celebrating the borough's
and heartbreaking child poverty. wins when their individual lives remain the same.

Thirdly, having lived in Tower Hamlets I can confirm Tower Hamlets is

a very strange borough, encompassing the neighbourhoods of
Whitechapel with its predominantly Bangladeshi population and
Canary Wharf, home of the skyscraping financial services.

Two Cities
It's projected to be the fastest growing borough in the years to come.
Huge housing developments in Canary Wharf bringing in bankers and
their bonuses reflect little on the lives of everyone else. 
Finding Your Creative Niche | CHC 2020
The area of Tower Hamlets I most frequented, and still do, is the
Whitechapel-Shadwell-Wapping strip. Whitechapel on the north end is
huge, bustling and runs down to Commercial Road where there is a
two-block depth of Shadwell. Over The Highway you enter Wapping,
where the street litter disappears, there are more parks, and quiet
reigns. All Tower Hamlets.

Whitechapel looks set for a wave of gentrification sweeping down from 50% of London's wealth is owned
Shoreditch. Shadwell has new housing developments and a sharp divide
between the largely white newcomers to London from the rest of the
by the richest 10% of its households.
UK and Europe, with the London-born Bangladeshi population mostly
living in the nothing short of US-style housing projects of council and
social housing literally set back from the roads and hidden away. 

A rising tide lifts all ships and while I do believe that it's also easy, and
perhaps healthy, to maintain some scepticism. How much do the
bankers and the young professionals really contribute? Not enough, my The bottom 50% own just over 5%.
answer has to be. 

Tower Hamlets seems to me a microcosm of London overall, and of

London to the rest of the UK. How much do the London elites,
billionaires, aristocrats, contribute to the troubles of the capital? Not
enough. How much does the vast wealth of London contribute to the
rest of the country? Not enough. English Indices of Deprivation 2015

Photo by Collins Lesulie on Unsplash

Second Cities The North-South divide is one thing Commentators like to say Brexit was
but in socioeconomic terms it's more a strike against the political elite in
the South East-Rest of the Country London by forgotten and left-behind
divide. In political terms, the London towns in the rest of the country. The
elite are seen as distant from the rest previous years general election would
of the country. And, bizarrely, London have been a far more appropriate
is seen as a land of wealthy bankers.  time for such a display.

There are attempts to redress this And on Brexit, London has been
It's always been my experience that balance. The shift of institutions like leading the resistance. Under Sadiq
the rest of the UK has a certain level the BBC and ITV to the burgeoning Khan's mayorship the insistence that
of animosity to London. Which I've medialand of Salford have been very London is open for business, open to
always found perfectly legitimate as I successful. all, and a welcoming and diverse
also believe London (as some sort of metropolis has been a beacon of hope
monolith) has a certain level of disdain Attempts at more regional for many. Other large cities that voted
for the rest of the country.  government have been less so. to remain have an example to follow.
To me, part of this issue felt like the fact London
is so much larger than other UK cities.

But I had no idea whether that was normal.

So let's find out.

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

Second cities and their capitals

Only 21 countries have

second cities less than 25% The Greater
Phuket, Thailand,
the size of the capital. Manchester area
is just 5% the size of
is 25% the size of
capital Bangkok.
millions population



Thailand Peru Angola Argentina Philippines Afghanistan South Korea Chile France Indonesia DR Congo Bangladesh Kenya Malaysia Greece Mexico Zambia Zimbabwe Iran Iraq UK

Population of the capital city in lighter green, the second largest city in darker. Ordered by percentage difference.
Country Capital, pop millions Second city, pop millions % By contrast...
Melbourne is 98% the size of Sydney.
Thailand Bangkok, 15.975 Phuket 5 Mumbai is 85% the size of Delhi.
Peru Lima, 11.355 Arequipa, 0.890 7 Kumasi is 76% the size of Accra.
Angola Luanda, 7.560 Lubango, 0.685 9 Barcelona is 75% the size of Madrid.
Argentina Buenos Aires, 15.520 Cordoba, 1.620 10 Los Angeles is 72% the size of New York.
Philippines Manila, 24.650 Cebu, 2.635 10 Onitsha is 56% the size of Lagos.
Afghanistan Kabul, 3.980 Kandahar, 0.555 13 Montreal is 54% the size of Toronto.
South Korea Seoul-Incheon, 24.210 Busan, 3.225 13 Abu Dhabi is 46% the size of Dubai.
Chile Santiago, 6.350 Valparaíso, 0.890 14 St Petersburg is 30% the size of Moscow.
France Paris, 10.980 Lyon, 1.665 15
Indonesia Jakarta, 32.275 Bandung, 5.945 18
These are the largest cities, but are not capital cities.
Dem Rep Congo Kinshasa, 12.350 Mbuji-Mayi, 2.280 18
Bangladesh Dhaka, 17.425 Chittagong, 3.400 19
Many other countries including Italy, Morocco, South Africa,
Kenya Nairobi, 5.765 Mombasa, 1.235 21
UAE, the Netherlands, Germany, and Israel have cities or
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, 7.820 Johor Bahru, 1.810 23
urban areas larger than their capital according to this data.
Greece Athens, 3.470 Thessaloniki, 0.820 23
Mexico Mexico City, 20.565 Guadalajara, 4.830 23
Zambia Lusaka, 2.920 Kitwe, 0.675 23
Source: Demographia World Urban Area Report 2018 (PDF)
Zimbabwe Harare, 2.255 Bulawayo, 0.540 23 The report shows only cities over a population of 500,000. Some
Iran Tehran, 13.945 Mashad, 3.535 25 countries only have one city of that size, some have none. So these
Iraq Baghdad, 7.135 Mosul, 1.840 25 results are only accurate as far as what is included in the report, my
UK London, 10.585 Manchester, 2.705 25 own maths, and my own competence.
City Population % of London World rank At the latest estimate there are 66 million people living in the UK.

London 10,585,000 - 35 While the numbers won't match exactly because of different sources
Manchester 2,705,000 25 186 and newer figures we can guess that about 55 million of them don't
Birmingham 2,565,000 24 204 live in London, 84% of the population.
Leeds-Bradford 1,985,000 18 273
Glasgow 1,240,000 11 424 The 14 cities listed here contain 25,520,000 people - 38% of the UK
Southampton-Portsmouth 905,000 8 581 population.
Liverpool 885,000 8 599
Newcastle upon Tyne 805,000 7 645 There are complications too. Generally Birmingham is been seen as the
Nottingham 775,000 7 672 UK’s second city. And is larger by some measurements. But shouldn’t
Sheffield 720,000 6 736 the "second city" title belong to Edinburgh, our second capital? Except
Bristol 670,000 6 802 here Belfast is the larger of the union's capitals.
Belfast 620,000 5 856
Leicester 555,000 5 966
Edinburgh 505,000 4 1050

Hang on a minute... Yes, these figures are different than others you may have seen.
The data on exactly how big cities are is surprisingly complicated. Which suburbs or
Yes, London is a good deal bigger than other UK cities.
satellite towns should be included? How to count independent towns subsumed by
urban sprawl?
This is definitely on the more unusual end of the spectrum.
Some cities have been lumped together. In a practical sense Leeds and Bradford are
one large urban area. In a cultural sense it might not feel that way. What else does it mean? No idea.
Stunning visualisations of data on ethnicity from the 2011 census.
Wikipedia: Demography of London
Links and resources
My favourite museum here is the London is one of the loneliest Creative types should have a look Trust For London are tackling
Museum of London Docklands. cities in the world. at Creative Mornings - a breakfast poverty and inequality in the
Located in a former warehouse in lecture series for the creative capital. They have independent
East India Dock. I built Find Your Friendly to find community. data, publications, funding, and
events, groups and hobbies to campaign on these issues.
A Population History of London. One of my favourite places in
meet in-person and make London
London? The horological gallery at
For the country as a whole the a bit less lonely.
Bank of England has a thousand
the Science Museum. CHILD POVERTY
years of population statistics.
TLF Travel Alerts has all your
surrealist spoof tube updates Is working for families in the UK

covered. where one in four children live in

Thank you for reading


Frances Foster
Cover and this photo by Tom Parsons on Unsplash