Text by Sadiq Khan Portrait by David Bailey Culture Most Read Culture

The reason that London is the greatest, most creative city in the world can be summed up in one word—Londoners.

Here in London, we don’t just tolerate our diversity; we celebrate and embrace it. Author Zadie Smith says that London is a “state of mind,” and I think she’s right. Being a Londoner isn’t about where you’re born or where you grew up—it’s about who you are and what you stand for. We are a city made up of people from all backgrounds—outward-looking and forward-thinking.

Here, you’re free to dress however you wish, love whoever you want to love and be whoever you want to be. That is a big reason why I feel our capital attracts so many young, talented people and has such a vibrant, thriving creative scene—one that is bursting with color, buzzing with ideas and overflowing with imagination.

Our creative credentials speak for themselves: We’re one of the big four fashion capitals of the world, alongside Paris, Milan and New York. We are the third-largest city for filmmaking in the world, with 40 crews filming out on London’s streets every single day. We are a global center for design and innovation—hosting the world’s biggest design festival. And from David Bowie to the Rolling Stones, Adele to Stormzy, London has always been and will always be a global powerhouse for music. Every night of the week, the West End is alive with the best theater, dance and opera on the planet. Then there are our countless cultural gems, our world-class museums and galleries, our unparalleled history and heritage—the list goes on.

For many people, Soho is the epicenter of creative life in London—with theaters, nightlife and major cultural institutions around every corner. But take a closer look and you’ll see hubs of creativity all over the capital—from Barking to Brixton, Hackney to Croydon, artists are leading the way in shaping their communities. Soon, I’ll be launching the London Borough of Culture—to celebrate creative life in all of London’s 32 boroughs and showcase the great things going on outside of the West End. I’m also looking into setting up a Creative Land Trust, based on a similar model in San Francisco, to help artists and creatives buy their own workspace and put down roots in an area that they helped to make an attractive and vibrant place to live.

Another big part of London’s buzzing vibe is down to its thriving nighttime economy. Now that the Night Tube is up and running, I want to transform the capital into a truly 24-hour city. That’s why I appointed Amy Lamé as London’s first Night Czar last year. She’s working around the clock to champion the capital’s nightclubs, pubs, music venues and LGBT+ spaces as the city continues to grow and develop.

London’s creative appeal extends around the globe, with four out of five tourists citing London’s exceptional cultural offer as their number one reason for visiting. It’s also impossible to ignore the economic clout of our creative industries—contributing £42 billion a year and accounting for one in every six jobs in the capital.

So as you can see, culture and creativity is in London’s DNA. It’s the glue that binds us all together, and from the outest of my mayoralty, I pledged to make culture and the creative industries a key priority.

When the UK voted to leave the EU, I launched a campaign called #LondonIsOpen. I wanted to show the world that, despite Brexit, London would remain open to business, investment, trade and people—regardless of faith, ethnicity, nationality, background, gender, age or sexual orientation.

London’s artists and creatives were the first to respond to this campaign. Artists from Gillian Wearing to David Shirley, Jeremy Deller to Mark Titchner created amazing pieces that reflected London as a diverse, creative capital. I am so proud of the outpouring of support from the city’s creative community for #LondonIsOpen. We’ve had support from the worlds of theater, dance, music, food and literature as we continue to share London’s “state of mind” with the world.

The key to London’s creative energy is our openness to the world. Nowhere else comes close. When the whole world is on your doorstep, amazing things can happen, brilliant partnerships can form and great work is created. It’s these sparks of inspiration that light London’s creative fire—and it shows no sign of going out.

-Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London






David Bailey - Humanity

David Bailey was a working-class tailor’s son when, in 1960, the art director of British Vogue gave him a contract.


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