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London’s Imported Customs

Greater London is contained, roughly, within the M25 motorway and has a population of about 7,825,000 (or 14,000,000 if you include the whole metropolitan area), of which maybe half originated somewhere else. Many of these are indigenous British, of course, but the rest come from every country in the world – and have brought with them their customs and traditions, though few communities have brought customs that impinge on the whole population, confining events to their own houses or the area of London that they happen to have settled in. There is definitely a PhD thesis in all this but Collections has to confine itself to what we have on file, which is by no means representative of the whole scene. The South Asians (ie, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans) are far the biggest group, over 13% of Londoners, and they do have their celebrations, even if our troops have failed to photograph them. We have heard them though, when they set off their Diwali fireworks - often late at night after Collections has gone to bed. On the other hand two communities are happy to share their celebrations with anyone. The West Indian Notting Hill Carnival could soon be a victim of its own success since vast crowds, of all ethnic groups, make it difficult to control - though too much control would surely spoil it. It is a spectacular London event to enjoy while it is still chaotic. The Chinese share their New Year with Londoners right in the heart of the West End. Once even more chaotic than Notting Hill Carnival it is now more organised (but less fun) on an official stage in Trafalgar Square, though the the dragons and lions still tour Chinatown and the streets around Leicester Square.