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Photograph: Time Out
Photograph: Time Out

Time Out’s manifesto for a future London

No one knows what tomorrow will bring (especially when today is so weird) but we can have a good crack at it. This is our declaration for a better city

By Kate Lloyd
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What does your future London look like? Moving walkways, obviously. Flying gizmos? A holographic Sadiq Khan standing astride the Thames? Traffic lights replaced by looping TikTok clips and ‘Wap’ gifs? As a spoiled, heterosexual white man, my ideal future is one that caters solely to my interests. No cars (I like walking). Challenging jazz played in all public places (everyone loves challenging jazz). Young people forced – by law – to treat me with respect and not roll their eyes every time I desperately reference ‘Wap’ (which is often). But the more I think about it, the more my mental image of an ideal city doesn’t feature travelators, jazz and laser pyramids at all. It just involves loads of people treating each other with respect and kindness. A city that doesn’t make you feel like the slowest, crappest rat in the race. A city where the planners understand that sometimes the best café on the block isn’t a steel-and-glass ‘espresso bar’ but the shonky little one in the park, with the guy who takes 15 minutes to make one cup of tea. A city where your worth is not relative only to your wallet. All right, and maybe one travelator. Joe Mackertich, Time Out London editor 

Illustration: Jenni Sparks
Illustration: Jenni Sparks
Illustration: Jenni Sparks

There will be spaces for doing nothing

Not calling him lazy or anything, but comedian Tom Parry wants a communal space where work is forbidden

I have a cousin who lived in South Africa and we would contact each other all the time. Every two or three years we’d see each other. Then he moved to London. We saw each other less in London than we did when he lived in South Africa. It is so hard to get schedules in sync. Everybody is so busy here. Living here’s a bit like free-diving underwater with no tank. You’re holding your breath. For the last seven or eight months everyone’s been able to come up for air, and breathe, and go, ‘It’s mad, isn’t it, down there?’ What if we made a space for people to do that permanently? The Thames has got to feature.

It’s just like having a big lungful of fresh air. Maybe a barge, a floating island on the middle of the Thames. And, at the risk of sounding like an old man in a Sam Smith’s pub, I think we’ve got to do away with wi-fi. It’s got to be a gadget-free space. I’m also a sucker for really big beanbags.

The Southbank Centre’s full of magical spaces like that: there’s lots of room and there’s lots of people who don’t quite know why they’re in there. I’d want that kind of atmosphere but on a barge on the Thames: huge beanbags; maybe a little bit of live acoustic music but nothing too intrusive.

And – most importantly – it’s always sunny.

The homeless will be treated with respect

Until 2020, Joshua lived on the street. He says that both laws and perceptions need to change

This year, some Londoners are starting to experience what others have to deal with on a daily basis: the worry of losing work, the scramble to buy food. The very people who walked past individuals on the street and said ‘get a job’ have had to learn empathy. I hope the government listens to this increased compassion.

It’s wrong to punish people who rough-sleep and they shouldn’t be viewed as criminals. I hope citizens, society and the government now see the moral importance of taking action. I hope they help the vulnerable and make the city great again. I’d like to see an increase in Universal Credit and Local Housing Allowance to cover average rents. I’d like to see subsidised fares for travel for people with low incomes starting work, investment in services that help prevent homelessness and funding for employment-support programmes tailored to people experiencing homelessness. People who were once homeless need to be better documented.

I hope people will be more giving to homeless charities. If I hadn’t connected with St Mungo’s during the first lockdown I wouldn’t be where I am now: in my own flat with new, positive goals. We’re going through something that will become a moment in history and it’s forced us all to think about things that are important to us. I’m sure it will change people. It could make the world a happier place.

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Illustration: Jenni Sparks
Illustration: Jenni Sparks
Illustration: Jenni Sparks

Neighbours will know each other better

Susan Gilchrist pairs lonely Londoners with neighbours for charity BEfriend. She says it needs to happen more

One of our clients, a woman in her sixties called Magda, recently came to the end of the BEfriend scheme. (We match volunteers with local people who are isolated or have diagnosed mental health problems.)

When she started, she had severe depression and her relationships with family and friends had broken down to the point where she was completely isolated and fearful of leaving the house. At our first meeting, she cried for the entire time I was with her. After being matched with a local volunteer, they started going for walks together, then as they got to know each other better, they both went to art groups and yoga classes. Now Magda has rebuilt her relationships with her loved ones, started new hobbies and told me that she has finally found ‘peace, comfort and happiness’.

It really shows the impact of schemes such as this one. One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic has been that more people are looking out for their neighbours and getting involved in their local communities. I think having more schemes such as BEfriend rolled out across London would help a lot of people have a better quality of life and make them feel like they matter, which has to be a win-win situation.

Artists will get their dues

Serious culture head Block 336 director/artist Jane Hayes Greenwood imagines a better world for creatives

Artists themselves need affordable spaces to live and work in our city. If we are to leverage the transformative capacity of art and ideas, the art world needs to better support artists, giving them the funding and mentoring they need to take risks and make great work. While art’s critical edge must be preserved, we should not expect artists to be responsible for responding to social issues only; artists must feel free to respond to whatever they want.

The people that are privileged enough to be able to make choices about what art gets seen should do the hard work needed to open up opportunities to creative people who are making exceptional work but who are under-represented.

And finally, those who enjoy the arts and can afford to support it, should.

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Picture: Andy Parsons/Jenni Sparks
Picture: Andy Parsons/Jenni Sparks
Picture: Andy Parsons/Jenni Sparks

Older Londoners won’t be written off

Ingrid Nachstern faced stigma when she trained to be a ballet teacher in midlife. Now she’s 66 and still pliéing like a boss

I started training to be a ballet teacher at 38 and a relative made a negative comment. Something about me ‘prancing around in a leotard’. It almost put me off. But I made a decision to not let it get to me. I’m now 66 and still prancing about in my leotard, doing daily ballet lessons at dance schools such as Pineapple and Danceworks.

I do my lessons alongside people in their twenties but I never feel discouraged, and love challenging myself. I even did my first solo performance in New York in 2011. Doing ballet keeps me feeling young. There’s a meditative quality to it – you have to concentrate otherwise you’ll injure yourself, and you have to remember loads of different sequences.

There is stereotyping about what older people are capable of. Especially after lockdown when people four years older than me were told to shield. It felt like a lot of older people were being written off, which was really unfair. I think it’s easy to lose self-confidence as you age. My attitude is not to apologise for anything. I have more courage now than I had when I was 20. I hope that I’ll still be doing ballet in my eighties. The way I see it is you only have one life, so you should live it doing what you love no matter what your age is.

Zones 2-6 will contain good things too

Comedian Will Duggan demands that the outskirts are no longer overlooked

London needs to be aware of how big it is. You know when you get a dog that was a little puppy and now it’s a great dane but it still thinks it’s a little puppy and can sit in your lap? That’s London. A lot of the rest of the country gets annoyed about how everything is London-centric; I think London gets annoyed about how central-London-centric London is. I would give each of the boroughs more devolved power. And equal funding. The Georgian reign is over; we don’t need Horse Guards Parade any more. I demand that Good Things – culture, attractions, 400-seater comedy venues – are placed at five-mile intervals throughout the city. It sounds a lot, but all spaces can be comedy spaces: pubs, cafés, hospital waiting rooms. You just need tickets and a microphone.

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Illustration: Jenni Sparks
Illustration: Jenni Sparks
Illustration: Jenni Sparks

Flats won’t remain empty

A way to fix the housing crisis from Miatta Fahnbulleh, chief executive at the New Economics Foundation

Real estate is so expensive in London that for many it’s just an investment. People buy it up and they just sit on the asset while others are struggling to live in the same city. There’s a simple solution: hike up council tax on those properties. You just put a property tax on flats and houses that are empty and you make it punitive. This would be a massive disincentive for people to keep them empty. So owners would either need to sell them on or move into them. Then the income that you generate from that, I would plough back into providing affordable housing for Londoners. We’d then also put in a system of rent controls to keep it an affordable level across the city.

Shoreditch will be perma-pedestrianised

Jimmy Garcia runs those South Bank igloos. He thinks car-free zones are the future

This year a lot of footfall has moved away from the city to the suburbs. Pedestrianising one of these areas would create a go-to destination in parts of London where restaurants are struggling. I’d envision it as a cordoned-off area with restaurants as well as street-food traders and perhaps DJs or live music – basically like a giant food hall but outdoors. The main problem is London weather in the winter. However, what I’ve found with my own pop-ups is that people will tend not to come out if it’s bad summer weather, but in winter it’s busy, as people love to wrap up in blankets. So as long as you’re prepared, it could work well.

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Illustration: Jenni Sparks
Illustration: Jenni Sparks
Illustration: Jenni Sparks

We’ll be as proud of our ethical hats as of our eco coffee cups

Have you seen Sally from Accounts’s new KeepCup? Course you have. She’s been drinking from it on Zoom calls so that other people in the office notice how green-minded she is. Imagine if this ‘cool to be green’ attitude extended to everything. That’s the future we want, so we asked Helena Chow, co-founder of ethically conscious shop Aida to pick three great hats from her collection. 133 Shoreditch High St, E1 6JE.

Colourful Standard £28 (left): ‘These unisex merino-wool beanies are zero-waste and made from Woolmark-certified yarns. And they come in a vast number of colours.’

Howlin’ £55 (centre): ‘Made from natural Scottish wool, often produced under one roof, the environmental impact of Howlin’ beanies remains as low as possible.’

Escuyer £54 (right): ‘A clean aesthetic paired with sustainable production in a family-owned factory in Portugal puts this beanie at the top of my ethical list.’

Pollution will stay at reduced levels

London’s air became less toxic in lockdown. Transport expert Christian Wolmar shares a strategy that’ll keep it that way

My idea would be to turn the whole of central London – Zone 1 – into a ‘pedestrian priority area’. It would have a maximum speed of 15 mph for all vehicles, and give pedestrians priority over cars on the streets except on a few key arteries and bus routes. This would make most roads so slow that people would walk, cycle, use the tube or buses to get around.

In conjunction, the congestion charge should be put up to £30 as a further deterrence. Essentially, privately owned cars with single occupants do not belong in the centre of the city. This would make London better for pedestrians and reduce its pollution problem.

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Illustration: Jenni Sparks
Illustration: Jenni Sparks
Illustration: Jenni Sparks

Culture will be decolonised, democratised

The Royal Court’s Vicky Featherstone has tried to make her theatre carbon-neutral and tackled sexual harassment in the industry. What next?

First up, we need theatre that represents the entire complex, passionate make-up of this whole city, and is affordable and accessible to everyone. Institutions need to share out resources and opportunities equitably, with a massive programme of cultural and social engagement for all young people in London. Free tube travel for under-18s needs to be re-instigated. We need a culture that celebrates their brilliance and differences and gives them all equal access to the amazing and enriching adventures this city has to offer.

Meanwhile, institutions that were built on colonialism and the empire need to undergo a process of renaming and decolonising. Artefacts should be reclaimed by those we stole them from. Let’s become the Western world’s first decolonised, entirely carbon-neutral, youth-friendly city.

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