Parks and the city

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There’s an incredible amount of green areas in London. Since I came here I’ve been interesting in visiting as many parks as possible; for me this is an interesting way to see how different cities coexist within a major city such as London.

During 2012/13, we lived in three different areas (WC1 – Central London, SW2 – South London and N7- North London, and yes, we moved three times in a year…); that’s why I had the chance to visit many parks, Tooting Bec, Clapham Common, watching fireworks at Brockwell park for bonfire night, deers in Richmond Park, walking through Regent’s Park and the Regent’s Canal; of course, St. James and Hyde Park are compulsory visits in the first months and every time we have friends coming to London.

I also did an essay on Broadway market with an ethnographic visit to London Fields; I enjoyed the lovely summer weather with a picnic at Victoria Park and Finsbury Park. Near to our home, we went for a run in Tufnell Park playing fields, Whittington Park and Dartmouth Park, once I walked for over an hour to Highgate Woods. Closer to home, my favorites parks for a walk are Hampstead Heath and Waterlow Park.

imageSo many things to do…

I can’t stop comparing London parks with the use of public space in Santiago. Here in London people go to parks and use them recurrently every day, with rain or sunshine, for the 1 o’clock club and children playground, to have lunch, to play sports or walking their dogs, for barbecues, picnic and drinks with friends. Also, parks are reservoir for nature and wildlife, I love the many ponds, trees, flowers, ducks, swans and squirrels. On the contrary, in Santiago it’s more usual to find just pigeons and many stray dogs.

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 On top, Hyde Park (left) and Waterlow Park (right). At the bottom, London Fields (left) and Hampstead Heath (right). Source: My own pictures.

What about class?

There are parks, squares and open spaces in almost every neighborhood in London, while in Santiago parks and green areas are a privilege; main parks are located in middle-high income neighborhoods. There are fabulous places, especially the hills, but the average distribution of green areas are tied with income and class segregation.

From what I’ve seen during the past year, there has been a revival of “park life” with massive cycling to the Parque Metropolitano de Santiago (Metropolitan Park, San Cristobal Hill), sports and musical events (Parque Bustamante, Costanera Andrés Bello, Parque O’Higgins), film screenings and theatre festivals during the spring and summer (Parque Araucano, Parque Bicentenario) and of course picnics (Parque Forestal). Although there are interesting open spaces in the city, the location and availability of green spaces is still a sign of urban inequality in Santiago.

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 Cerro San Cristobal – Parque Metropolitano, Santiago, Chile. Source: http://urbansantiago.blogspot.co.uk/ 

When I thought about basing my research in London I was inspired by urban life and urban space occupation. My research will be focus on food, but on street food and how urban spaces are also build upon the arrival of new cultural and creative activities. For me, this forms of cultural life and experiencing urban space contribute to the generation of new urban cultural forms, some more permanent than others.

This week I joined a group of London ethnographers; academics and researchers working in different topics/areas but with a common interest on the experience of the city. Very exciting times to live and research in London.

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