For eight nights now we've been bedding down in a furnished apartment on the edge of the City of London. Every single day has been enthralling. I know that London will disappoint me in time, that the particular frustrations of this city will someday gather around me claustrophobically, but for now I'm floating from one discovery to the next.
London's superdiversity is undeniable, and it's exciting. This characteristic of London has me thinking about working on a London project that would catalogue all of the city's many international communities and clusters. I've been wondering if in fact every country in the world is represented in London, and in turn if the world's many national and territorial cultures might all be accessible in London in one or another way—via cuisine, cultural celebration, embassy party, exhibition, or some other form.
It turns out that the city's deep cosmopolitanism has inspired a few projects along these lines. I discovered a project called The World in One City, which saw its creators Alex Horne and Owen Powell attempt to interview one London resident from each of the world's 192 UN-recognized countries during 2006 and 2007. They made it to 189, with just three tiny Pacific countries (Marshall Islands, Palau, and Tuvalu) outstanding. Then I discovered another project with the same name, a photographic essay by Philippe Sibelly from 2005 depicting one person from each of the 202 nations competing in the Olympics. (Londoners interested in Sibelly's project are in luck. An exhibition of Sibelly's project will open at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith this coming week.)
I'm thinking about how I might approach the subject of London's remarkable cosmopolitanism while I'm lucky enough to live and work here, what I might be able to add to the material initiated by the two projects above.