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Perspective

London's 'War Zone': What Trump and Others Don't See

Trump angered Brits when he cited London’s increasing knife violence recently, saying a city hospital there was “like a war zone.” In this excerpt from Tales of Two Londons, the authors describe the joys and threats in a London neighborhood.
The musician Esperanza Spalding snapped a photo of the authors, Penny Woolcock and Stephen Griffith, at Angel Station in London
The musician Esperanza Spalding snapped a photo of the authors, Penny Woolcock and Stephen Griffith, at Angel Station in LondonEsperanza Spalding

The longstanding push and pull between London and New York made headlines this year for a grim reason: London’s murder rate passed New York’s in two of the first four months of 2018. In London, knife crime is the main culprit. In this piece, adapted from Tales of Two Londons: Stories From a Fractured City, edited by Claire Armitstead (OR Books $18), two friends—a director and a youth worker—walk through a neighborhood in a north London borough, and discuss the two Londons they see layered atop each other: One has gastro pubs and boutique shops; the other, fatal bus routes and enemy zones.

Penny: I live in the top half of a shabby Georgian house in Barnsbury, an affluent area in north London. Opposite there’s a pretty little park with massive horse chestnut trees and 50 yards on the left a beautiful larger park. We have three gastro pubs nearby, it’s a five-minute walk to the Almeida Theatre and just up the road from the Screen on the Green where we can sink into a sofa and sip a cocktail while watching the latest cinema release. Pet dogs trot around amiably day and night but our pavements are spotless because well-behaved owners always scoop up the poop. It’s an oasis of calm, occasionally disturbed by a motorist and a cyclist yelling at each other at the narrow chicane on the corner of Thornhill Road. This is the Angel, Islington.