What About Our Stories?
Growing up in London I really never experienced what the city had to offer. Sure, my parents took me to: Storybook Gardens, the Balloon Festival and from time to time we made trips downtown, but that is all I knew. Growing up I never really appreciated what was out there in the city. That was, until I moved.
Five years ago I moved from one of London’s suburban neighbourhoods into an older and more established ’hood closer to the city’s core. I started to spend my days and nights downtown exploring and experiencing all it had to offer. Slowly I began to examine and take-in the rest of the city, exploring every neighbourhood I could outwards from the core. Over time I came to realize and appreciate that London encompassed much more than I ever knew growing up.
In recent years I have spent more and more time learning about this city and the variety of places I call home. I have read through old news stories and headlines, dug through historical books in the local archives, looked at maps of all shapes and sizes. I have explored the artifacts, art and culture from the decades which have come before. With each new piece of media I consume I find that the personal stories and accounts that define this city, its people, and generations past are the ones that resonate most.
Each and every day I meet people who have stories to tell about the Forest City. Some of these stories are upbeat and uplifting, while others are disturbing and share memories of the past that some would like to forget. Collectively these stories make the city what it is. Some stories are short anecdotes, poems or rhymes about things that once were; others pieces are longer and more dynamic works of literature or essays which focus on what is and what can be. The individuals whom I talk with have experienced this city in their own unique way; they have relationships with London and their stories share the essence of the links they have to this place.
As I take in more and more of these current stories I often ask myself if they will be around fifty or a hundred years from now. I wonder if Londoners of the future will be able to look back—as I am in the process of doing—to understand what London was like in the era we are currently writing the history of.
Just as, “history is written by the victors,” I believe that far too often the stories told, descriptions crafted and histories documented are done so by those that have the means to do so. These stories often manifest themselves as biased, politically-slanted conversations—which are often racist—written by the traditional, mainstream media outlets. Unfortunately, these carefully crafted descriptions are far too often works of fiction and they do not reflect a complete understanding of the local cutlure or society. While these pieces may succinctly deliver the dominant narrative from a given moment in history they are far from the representative reality of what actually was.
There are so many stories, images, essays and pieces of literature that create an important and defining record of London’s history which that are lost on a daily basis. Ephemeral—written on single pieces of paper, files stored on hard drives that are not made to last, oral histories that are not being passed on from generation to generation; or ignored—lacking credibility as they are not produced by ‘qualified journalists’. Many of the stories that are so important to defining our lives today, and capturing the prevailing narrative of today for tomorrow, continue to disappear as we often lack the intentionality to capture and preserve them.
As current generations learn about, and from, the periods which have proceeded us; gaining insights and introspection to how we got to where we are today, there is value in capturing current perspectives and stories to be retained. These stories need to existin in the decades to come for future versions of ourselves to experience and learn from just as we do now.
I want to capture, read and share the stories about London that go beyond those we see in the headlines. I want to leave a narrative about this era in London’s history that is worth reading, one that reflects a greater reality beyond what is read in the ‘daily rag’.
I may be alone in wanting these stories to exist beyond today, into the future for decades to come. Or, perhaps, there are others that see the value which comes with capturing and sharing such works for future consumption and appreciation. Either way, I would hate to lose these important parts of the culture and history that make London what it is today. What this looks like both practically and tangibly in today’s digital world is difficult to say, but it is an idea that I am curious to explore.