What is a Londoner?

Knife crime, racism and the use of police force among the hotly debated topics in ‘What is a Londoner’ event, write students Omotolani Shokeye, Rohma Ejaz and Shannon Eades.

Date: 10 March 2017

The “What is a Londoner?” event took place at London Metropolitan University, with roughly 150 journalism students asking questions, taking photos, writing articles and filming the discussion, which at times produced lively and frank exchanges of views.

Panelists included Foteini Aravani, a Greek-born museum curator; Jennette Arnold OBE, a London Assembly member; documentary filmmaker and London Met graduate Kartel Brown; popular historian and author Catharine Arnold, and Maurice Mcleod, a social commentator.

Brown said: “I was born in Bristol and I do feel like a Londoner...I feel like to be a Londoner is someone who is very tolerant and accepting of the constant changes that are happening around us. A Londoner is a spirit.”

The debate continued as students raised questions for the panellists on the impact of immigrants, and how they contribute to the London economy. Student Omotolani Shokeye directed a question to Jennette Arnold, asking her whether immigrants were putting a strain on London resources.

“From the Brexit campaign, I found out there was such a lot of misinformation, they had taken on board this myth that Europeans or outsiders are a drain on London,” she told the panel.

Knife crime was the most deliberated topic, which ignited the panelists and also brought up racism, and the use of police force.

Many questions were asked by the audience, including one from third-year student Dominika Kubinyova, who asked Brown: “What is it about Londoners that makes knife crime such a big problem?”

“I think it’s firstly important to point out we have a problem in knife crime across the UK,” he said.

“We have to go back into how we raise young men and how we see young men, and how young men are represented in the media.”

Jennette Arnold stressed how knife crime is endemic, saying that “innocent young men are caught up in the situation of doing warfare activity”. She added that the knives used today are “machetes and swords,” to which Brown pointed out that kitchen knives are often a weapon of choice.

He then talked about what he called the Tottenham uprising, saying politicians such as Tottenham MP David Lammy are not doing enough for their constituencies. “He’s doing all he can,” said Jennette Arnold.

First-year student Channette Williams said her cousin was shot dead by a gang in Wood Green, north London in 2005. She said Lammy came to her family’s house and made promises, such as getting them out of the area. But when he left they never heard from him again, she said.

Jennette Arnold then gave the example of a young black boy, who was put upside-down in a bin by a police officer, saying this was the act of an individual.

“Are you suggesting there is no such thing as institutionalised racism?” student Williams asked.

Students were very positive about the debate. Bulgarian student Tashko Mihaylov, 21, said: “I found topics about Black Lives Matter, Brexit and foreigners very interesting because I’m a foreigner.”

This article was written by Fashion Marketing and Journalism BA students Omotolani Shokeye, Rohma Ejaz and Shannon Eades.