By Emily Wilkinson
With Brexit looming over us, London still maintains its famous multicultural diversity, embracing foreign traditions, celebrations and cultures all over the capital, every month. With over 36% of London’s population having been born abroad, it’s only natural that we celebrate the diversity we have on our doorstep.
London puts on celebrations for all kinds of festivals, with the Chinese New Year celebrations being one of the biggest outside of Asia. From Thanksgiving to London Pride, it’s time to see what the people think and how our city embraces London’s multicultural profile.
In March it was the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations, which took place in Trafalgar Square attracting over 125,000 people. Shane Fearnon, 21, a law student from Ireland who lives in London says: “I think because London is a multicultural city and they celebrate so many other days throughout the year, it’s good that they recognise St Patrick’s Day.
“In my opinion it doesn’t matter about your views about religion, yes St Patrick was a Catholic but he bought people together and the day should be about bringing people together from all over the world. I like the way London has so many parades in Trafalgar Square and throughout.
“I think Belfast should follow London’s example of embracing it as a day to bring people together.”
Diversity of all kinds
It’s not just the racial and religious diversity that London celebrates, it also embraces the LGBTQ+ community. Luke Knight, 17, a trans man and student says: “I really feel like I can express myself artistically in London in a way I wouldn’t be able to anywhere else. It’s a place where I can dress and act how I want and still feel accepted by everyone I pass.”
He adds that he faces some problems in the capital. “Obviously there’s a slight anxiety for my safety, but that’s the same wherever you go when you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community – it’s pretty much inescapable!”
North London in particular plays a key role in celebrating gender and sexual diversity. Islington Pride celebrates the influential history of Islington’s LGBTQ+ community throughout the year and puts on a range of events during LGBTQ+ History Month every February. In addition, a project has been set up to embrace Islington’s history that will see the creation of a digital landscape in the borough, highlighting important heritage areas, and a dedicated LGBTQ+ archive.
Islington is also home to a plaque commemorating the first gay rights rally in 1970, with 150 members of the Gay Liberation Front. The plaque can be found at the junction of Highbury Fields and Highbury Place. “I do feel as though London is a place where I can explore my identity however, I wish, without the added fear of being judged for simply existing,” says Luke.
International students in London
In London, 41% of higher education students are from outside of the UK according to data collected by London & Partners in 2016/17. The highest number of students are from China, followed by the United States and Italy. But what makes London so attractive for higher education?
Filippo Ceccanibbi, 22 originally from Italy but now living and studying in London, says; “London is a big city which offers so many different possibilities and opportunities and you are able to meet so many different people.
“Originally I didn’t come here to study but when I learned about the education system in the UK it became more appealing than the Italian system.” He is keen to point out that although he prefers the UK education system, it is much more expensive.
In 2017, India was amongst the highest ranking country of birth for people born outside of London, with 300,000 Indians now living in the capital, according to the London Datastore. Eighty percent of India’s population identify as Hindu, so with the growing Indian population in London, it’s natural that we celebrate their religion too.
Hindus in Islington alone make up 17% of the population. Traditionally, Hindus celebrate Diwali around the end of October, with London putting on several vast events to embrace the festival of light. In past years just one of the celebrations that takes place for Diwali sees Dishoom, a café with several branches throughout London (locally, Shoreditch and King’s Cross) throwing a Diwali party with lots of vibrant and traditional food and flavours. So, keep your eyes peeled for their 2019 party!
Coming to the capital to work
But London sees people from all corners of the globe coming to get a flavour of what the city has to offer. Adriana Mirea, 41, who is originally from Romania but has been working in north London for over 20 years, says: “Moving to London was an obvious choice for me because there are so many more opportunities for me.
“I do miss Romania but London feels like home to me and my family now.”
When hearing things like this it may not be a surprise to find out that in the City of London 40% of the workers were born outside of the UK, according to figures from 2017.
This is just an insight into just some of the events that London celebrates, with something different going on every single month. Notting Hill Carnival has been a traditional celebration in London for over 50 years now and we are seeing constant change to London’s traditions and diversity. One of the most recent changes being the election of the first, Muslim, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan in 2016.
Keeping the traditions alive
Despite all the political turmoil and uncertainty within London and the UK it is important to continue to appreciate and celebrate these traditions from overseas to keep London at its multi-cultural peak. Many people like Luke and Shane feel welcome within London’s diversity, so let’s keep it that way.
So, even with all this Brexit talk, we really do love our friends from overseas, well, in London at least.
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