The London Story



Playwright Kwame Kwei-armah explores how London became the vibrant world city of today.

Playwright Kwame Kwei-armah explores how, over the last thirty years, London became a diverse, creatively rich world city and how its brash, dynamic and uncompromising population has shaped its politics and culture since the 1970s.

There is no such thing as a typical Londoner - one in three of the city's residents was born outside the UK and some 300 languages are spoken in the capital.

Those who come to London are drawn to its teeming possibilities, its openness and its promise of life without limits - you can be who you want to be because everybody else is too busy enjoying the buzz to care.

Yet in the 1970s London was on the brink - a depressed city with a declining population and a shrinking manufacturing base.

These days the population is growing again and, recession notwithstanding, the city is basking in a cultural resurgence and a confidence in its 24 hour cosmopolitan reputation which is evident from the streets of Soho to the bustle of Brick Lane.

On the other hand, it's argued that today's London at the top of its game has become adrift from the rest of the UK, that it's now a city of the world rather than of its own country.

Brought up in 1970s Southall in west London, Kwame returns to his childhood haunts to hear how his neighbourhood's history laid the foundations of what Southall is today - a lively, multi ethnic community.

In April 1979 tensions in Southall led to protests in the streets and clashes with the police that cost the life of demonstrator Blair Peach.

Today's Southall is a relatively harmonious community and Kwame hears the stories of how its evolution from that crisis has eptiomised the coming of age of the 21st century's dynamic, multi ethnic London.

Producer: Paula McGinley.

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Kwame Kwei-armah discovers how London's cultural riches propelled it to world city status.

Playwright Kwame Kwei-armah discovers how London culture took on the world, blazing a trail in theatre, art and fashion over the last thirty years.

Today London is a glittering world city - its theatres an irresistible draw for big name American actors while its galleries are attracting visitors in ever increasing numbers and its fashion - from the street to the catwalk - is setting the trends.

Kwame discovers what drove this success and the part played by the financial services sector in contributing to this creative flow.

Back in the dark days of the Seventies London's theatre swung uneasily between the edgy politics of the burgeoning fringe to the West End's programme of sex comedies and farces.

These days challenging productions and passionate writing have made London the stage for thoughtful, provocative and crowd pleasing work.

Beset by industrial instability and the three day week, the Seventies weren't the best decade for artistic output -

the YBAs were yet to transform London's art scene and Tate Modern was not even a drawing on architectural plans.

Now the stunning Tate Modern is firmly established as the world's most prestigious museum of modern art - an essential stop for tourists and Londoners alike - and building work has started on its much anticipated extension.

Kwame explores how these cultural changes in London have affected the city's status and led to its swaggering self belief - the envy of other capital cities around the world - and finds out how much the capital relies on the City's wealth and philanthropy to support its flourishing arts scene.