"Community" in London? Is there really such a thing?
In a city that is notoriously dubbed ‘rude’ and ‘hostile’, is there really such a thing as community?
Being a born and bred Londoner, I have to agree that us city folk are not the friendliest but we’re also in a time when one’s sense of community is changing. Gone are the times when community is only defined by what neighbour we’d go to for some sugar and what well-respected person next-door our parents could turn to for a last-minute babysitter.
The definition of community is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common” and with a capital city like London being so vast and diverse, the characteristics one can rely on for this feeling of community are never-ending. Surely, that’s the wonderful thing about London, right?
In the melting pot of people that make up our lovely capital, a sense of community can also be felt within the specific cultures that pepper our neighbourhoods. This can be felt from small instances such as going shopping in the international food store for the ingredients that only your grandparents would use. It can also be felt when a new local restaurant opens that happens to serve up dishes that remind you of nostalgic family meals. Community can be as broad of a concept as you wish and a sense of community can be felt in any pastime or activity – from baking to playing the ukulele.
Feeling like you’re part of a community can even stretch to your working environment and yes, we realise that may sound a little sad but, in this day and age of working remotely or in small companies, being a part of a co-working space or frequenting your local café for your morning meeting may just allow you that sense of community that you feel as if you’ve been missing out on.
We’re in a time when your new neighbour may be renting and move on after a few months, or your favourite greasy spoon may have just gone out of business and yes, these are things that can contribute to the sense of a loss of community in London. It is also easy to see that many find solace in certain aspects of the capital and one of the main ways that people find it is in food. We’re not advocating eating your feelings here, no. But we are trying to highlight the way that by eating and contributing to the London food scene, it could give you that sense of community you’ve been yearning for. From community allotments, city farms and local cooking groups – these are little examples of the way in which London is very capable of creating communities.
Think about the last time you went on Instagram and saw a new restaurant opening. Chances are you’ll probably see it featured in a magazine or a website and then want to go there yourself, right? In keeping up these conversations, going to these restaurants and coming across others with similar interests allows the upkeep of this feeling of community. All you have to do is look at the #FOODIE hashtag and see just how many people either label themselves as such, or constantly look for inspiration for their food obsession.
This month we want to focus on community alongside the ways that food and eating out can give us this feeling. Whether it be through the conversations we have with the lunchtime street food market trader or the ways in which food is becoming a useful tool in the volunteering and charity worlds. Food really can be the glue to many communities – just think of communal eating experiences and the fact that many travel far and wide for good plates of food.
Déjà Vu is obviously interested in how you perceive community and relate to it in the capital so we’d love for you to continue the conversation on Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtags #dejavucommunity or #djvldn to get the topics flowing and get tagging your favourite community-based projects and initiatives.