The North-South divide is everywhere. Wherever you go, you will hear tales about it. A village, a city, a region, a country, the world: the North-South divide is omnipresent. How does such a divide affect London? How does it manifest itself in the public opinion and why?
Surfing the web, across London based online forums, magazines and blogs, many debates and information can be found about such a divide. It seems that among people living in North London there is a widespread belief that South London is unsophisticated, unsafe and backward, without history, culture, art, entertainment. In contrast, people from the South claim that Northerners are snob, posh, close-minded, without cultural diversity and sense of community. As I am not a Londoner and I wanted to know more about this issue, and since the online reality does not always correspond to the offline one, I decided to go on the street, stop people and ask them questions. Armed with a recorder, I went to Brixton and Peckham Rye in the South, and to Hampstead and Primrose Hill in the North. Of the 24 interviews, 12 have been taken in the North, 12 in the South. In the North, 6 out of the 12 people interviewed said that the divide does exist and 6 that it does not.
“It’s a lot more fashion here, a lot more arty, it’s a lot more fun, it’s a lot more modern. South London is doggy and with village people trying to think they’re cool and they’re not. Everything that happens in London is North of the river.”
“People are more dangerous in the South, my bag was stolen in Brixton. There are no transports, few cabs, and I am scared when I am there and I do not know how to go back home.”
Results were different in the South where 9 people claimed that the divide is artificial, while 3 found it to be real.
“There are lots of places in South London seen as rough, while they are actually quite cool. The divide does not exist. I think it’s even dull.”
“The South has everything, except from transport maybe. I like both, I don’t have any problem.”
“I think the transport links are not good and so people don’t come here. When people do not know things there is fear. I make jokes with my colleagues living in the North, about how dangerous we are down here.”
The lack of transport in South London was a critical point for the Northern interviewees supporting the concept of the divide. Similarly, that was among the main reasons mentioned by South Londoners to explain the hostility towards the South felt by people in the North. Indeed, just to mention the underground transports, only 30 out of the 275 tube stations in London are based in the Southern area of the city. How this affects mobility has been explored by the art and museum organisation CultureLine: only 46% of the people from the North ever crossed the Thames, while 83% of the people living in the South usually go to the North. Finally, mobility difficulties affect knowledge: since Northerners do not often go to the South because of an unequal distribution of the transport system, they have a narrow knowledge of that area, which enables the proliferation of all sorts of prejudices. Conversely, Southerners have a deeper knowledge of the opposite area of the city, therefore there is less room left for prejudice.
At the end of this small research, it become clear that the current North South divide in London stems mainly from an unequal distribution of the transport system, which results in narrow mobility and diminished knowledge – all this leading to patterns of prejudice. To counter these rising patterns, one of the structural change needed would be greater access to knowledge, through greater access to transport