Sara Llewellin: Old Cities, New Cities

November 30th, 2012

Sara Llewellin is Chief Executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust. Her essay introduces the UK edition of Good Ideas from Successful Cities: Municipal Leadership on Immigrant Integration.

The London 2012 Olympics presented many in the UK with a fresh and optimistic view on migration. Over a third of the Team GB medal winners have a migrant background, and athletes such as Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis have been embraced as role models for the nation.

The UK is a country built on migration from within Europe and the Commonwealth. The rich cultural diversity created by this is visible in so many of the country’s cities. London promotes itself as one of the most diverse cities in the world, with more than 300 languages spoken within it. In the next five years the city of Leicester will become the first English city which is “majority minority” – by 2015 it is estimated that the adult population will be less than half white. Cultural and ethnic diversity has become a huge source of pride to the UK. The food we eat, our cultural pastimes, social networks and working lives have all been influenced and enhanced by migration in some way.

Diversity caused by migration has happened over hundreds of years in some cities while in others it has been more recent. Urban areas such as Lincoln, Peterborough, Edinburgh and Sheffield have attracted migrant workers from the European Union and/or received asylum seekers through national dispersal processes. Population changes have been rapid and in some cases unwelcomed by established communities. Local services can be stretched and in a time of economic strain migrant communities can become easy scapegoats in the media. Some new communities have found themselves marginalized, isolated and without a voice in local democratic structures. Established migrant communities that have lived in cities for several generations can unfortunately experience similar challenges. Cultural sensitivities, social stereotyping and poverty can all affect integration and cohesion in urban areas.

In UK cities, local authorities and civil society groups have been instrumental in ensuring that the complex and varied needs of new and established migrant communities are considered within the provision of services such as education, housing and health, as evidenced by the West Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership. As well as addressing practical areas of need, local authorities and civil society groups have sought to improve emotional well-being and cohesion by creating youth advisory programs like the Youth Independent Advisory Group in the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Regardless of how long they have lived in a city, migrant communities all wish to build a life and make a positive contribution to society, which the projects featured in this UK Snapshot enable them to do. “Good ideas” such as these are in no way standard across cities in the UK, and it is crucial to share them, if elements are to be adopted by others. The Cities of Migration project is vital in ensuring that good integration practice is disseminated across sectors and networks. Projects featured in this UK Snapshot demonstrate that migrant communities can contribute to and be part of an active and diverse city life. Cities of Migration reminds us of the best things about living in a city – cultural diversity, tolerance, opportunity and friendship.

Sara Llewellin is Chief Executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust and therefore responsible, with the Board of Trustees, for the strategic direction and social justice impact of the Trust. Sara is on the Governing Council of the European Foundation Centre, is the Vice-Chair of the Association of Charitable Foundations, and is a trustee of Charity Bank and serves on its Credit Committee. Sara was formerly at the City Bridge Trust for a number of years and before that was the Chief Executive of St Giles Trust in South London. Her background is in social justice activism.

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