“All peoples of the world, this is London Calling, This is London Calling!”
Joe Strummer continues to point us in a right direction with his words all this time after he left us. The transmission mission from his Bush House broadcasts is one of focus on a city that contains and embraces the whole world. It was on Joe’s show that I first heard Lord Kitchener. Not the British Army needs YOU! Guy, a different Kitchener.
“London is the place for me, London this lovely city, You can go to France or America, India, Asia or Australia but you must come back to London city, well believe me I am speaking broadmindedly, I am glad to know my Mother Country, I have been travelling to countries years ago but this is the place I wanted to know, London that is the place for me”
Lord Kitchener was the stage name of Alwin Roberts the Calypso King. And this song is state endorsed propaganda. You see after the second world war our capital was short of hands to do all the work. We’d lost so many in the fields of France, the deserts of Egypt, the seas and oceans, the cities, mountains and skies of almost all over the whole planet that we were short a generation. We had been victorious but at what cost?
The Boys and Girls who became men and women during WWII were so depleted in their numbers. And yet the kids still needed schooling, the grannies still needed nursing and the country still needed to run. So the Home Office commissioned a pop song. I’m not sure that’s something they get into very often. But on Pathé news reel footage shown throughout The West Indies Kitchener sang,
“To live in London you are really comfortable, because the English people are very much sociable, They take you here and they take you there and they make you feel like a millionaire, London that’s the place for me”
And so, the Windrush Generation climbed aboard and set sail for merrie olde England.
It’s easy to be cynical in hindsight, to see that the chirpy ‘London’s streets are paved with gold’ call out cannot in reality have been quite as fab as made out. Of course many of the Windrush Generation have stories of English people being less than polite and welcoming upon their arrival.
You hear the same from Indians who have arrived since the 70’s, from the Eastern European’s who’ve been staffing our hospitals and working our construction sites ever since, but overall London is a city that reflects the whole world.
From East India Dock to Chinatown to Golders Green to Notting Hill Carnival. The whole world is right there within the sound of Bow Bells.
I’m not pretending London is perfect. It’s cold, wet, dirty and it’s eye-wateringly expensive. But…
“At night when you have nothing to do you can take a walk down Shaftesbury Avenue
There you will laugh and talk and enjoy the breeze and admire the beautiful scenery of London, that’s the place for me”
Next stop. Mill Hill.