Spitalfields' soul

September 8, 2000

Universities do not have souls ("London Guildhall is accused of selling its soul to the City", THES, September 1). However, the old City of London Polytechnic did have a fairly democratic forum, the academic council, that could question the activities of even vice-provosts. These days accountability is upwards, ultimately to governors, many of whom come from the City of London.

In our 1992 book, Global Finance and Urban Living: The Case of London, Leslie Budd and I pointed out the risk to Spitalfields once the City property boom crossed to the east of Bishopsgate. William Taylor's superb book, This Bright Field, has put us on alert again. LGU's department of sociology and applied social studies, in conjunction with Toynbee Hall, will shortly hold a two-day event to celebrate Spitalfield's communities - white working class, Asian, artistic and gay.

London-wide and regional agencies urgently need to reconcile the interests of finance and the communities east of the City. What should be avoided is an unrestrained struggle between the property interests of Docklands and the City of London to the detriment of communities and cultures.

Sam Whimster Reader in sociology London Guildhall University

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