Identity Issue 4

Defining Places

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A selection of people with interesting lives reveal the places they are most attached to and why.


Kate London 


Rheindahlen in Mönchengladbach: the base of the British Army of the Rhine after World War Two. Prefab buildings, metal window frames and the milkman making my mother pay up front in case we did a runner in the night. Roaming free with the other kids, chasing the Germans and shouting. “Two world wars and one world cup! Three nil, three nil!” Was that a moment of belonging? Or shame? And did I make it up? I google pictures of Rheindahlen and it looks nothing like my memories. I was only four when my family left West Germany. I don’t know where I’m from. I have Italian, Irish, Gypsy and English blood. I was raised mainly in Staffordshire but I’m not from there. I live in London. I love it. I hate it. My lack of a sense of belonging makes my history too feel fabricated. Attachment to place bestows authenticity. A lack of place is correspondingly suspect: a betrayal perhaps or pretending to be something you are not. How fantastic to know where you are from! But how delicious too, not to be certain where you’re from or where you belong. What freedom to listen and learn, to be as slippery as a fish in water.

Kate London was a detective constable for the Metropolitan Police, working in London and Paris. She is now a crime writer.

Illustration: Rheindahlen

02 _ _ _ DESIGNER

Wayne Hemingway


Morecambe, where I spent the first seven years of my life. My father left when I was very small and I lived with my Nan, my Pop and my Mum. It was a modest house but always busy – Nan and Mum made clothes, Pop did stuff in the garden and Nan ran a B&B. I was given tremendous freedom too. Pop would take me to dig ragworms in the Morecambe mussel beds; then he’d go home and I’d stay at the Stone Jetty to fish. Nan would take me dancing at the West End or Central Pier. And my Mum would take me to a beautiful spot on Half Moon Bay – she’d douse us in vinegar and olive oil and we’d fry on the rocks in the sun. When I go back today, the first thing I do is put on my running shoes and go to that rock to say hello to my late Mum. Morecambe has changed a lot since I was a kid but I loved it then and I love it now.

Wayne Hemingway MBE founded the Red or Dead fashion label and is known for his iconic work in fashion, place-making and architecture.


Illustration: Morecambe Bay


03 _ _ _ DANCER

Antonia Franceschi

London / New York

I love London but in New York, I can be 100% who I am. I was raised there, played on the streets there and started my life as a performer there so that embeds in a particular way. But then I came to London in my early 30s and fell in love with it. I’m now back after two years in Manhattan and I’m struck by the sense of space, architecturally and mentally. In New York, you’re on the front foot, there is such a fantastic energy. Here you have the space to create in a very different way. Being able to combine the two is really rewarding. I feel a bit like one of those rainbow cookies, with layers of different colours – chocolate, pink, orange, green. It all tastes good but it depends on your mood! I guess I’ve become British American and where I’m happiest, that’s where the people I love are. That’s the most important thing.

Antonia Franceschi is an award-winning ballerina, producer, writer and teacher.



Nick Johnson

Disobedient Places

When I was a CABE (the Chartered Association of Building Engineers) Commissioner, one of my favourite moments was asking my fellow commissioners: “How many of you live in a ‘planned’ place?” Most of us had chosen to live in a place that hadn’t been planned, that was probably awash with imperfections, contradictions and plan­ning paradoxes and that oozed charm, delight and desire. So, I'm most attached to the downright deliberately delightfully disobedient places that enrich rather than impoverish our day-to-day lives - places described by words that aren’t in the professional vocabulary of the people now responsible for place-making and planning.

Nick Johnson, operator and re-inventor of Manchester's Altringham Market.


Sam Kiley


The grassland plains scattered with acacia trees, criss-crossed with rivers that are dry for much of the year but run with chocolate water when the clouds burst. I’ve run shrieking with joy, with wait-a-while thorns tearing at my thighs, chased guinea fowl and galloped horses alongside crowds of zebra. But, on the western shoulders of Mount Kenya, which fall away into the ranch-lands and rangelands of Lai­kipia, to merely sit and stare brings on the aching, quivering near-melancholy of falling in love. This is a world in which my farming friends build walls six feet thick to keep elephants off their veggies. This the land of my birth. Yet I’m descended from a white invader species - this was not originally our land - a place of not quite belonging. The perpetual anxiety of the white African. Like love, it’s fragile. And it may not survive.

Sam Kiley works as a senior international correspondent at CNN and is the author of Desperate Glory.

Illustration: Laikipia

06 _ _ _ DEVELOPER

Tor Burrows


London will almost certainly always gain the top spot when I think of my favourite places in the world. Its diversity is compelling. I live here and have the privilege of being able to work with others to shape its future. Our London estate in Mayfair and Belgravia, in the West End and at the heart of a global city, is changing. With London's rapid growth, we want these neighbourhoods to be more active, open and integrated. We think it’s vital the estate evolves to meet the needs of our changing society, and we draw inspiration from London’s endless capacity to evolve, remain relevant and reflect people’s changing demands. I’m happy to say I eat, sleep and breathe London, in my view the best city in the world.

Tor Burrows is an associate director at Grosvenor Group.

Illustrations: Sam Green

This article appeared in Issue 4 - Identity

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