Druids, Hindus and Where’s Wally: ‘People in London’ opens eyes to city’s rich diversity

Hindu Kavadi ceremony

Hindu Kavadi ceremony - Credit: Archant

Primrose Hill Druids and Hindus in Highgate are among the images in an exhibition celebrating the rich diversity of life in the capital. People In London is a love-letter to the city from St John’s Wood photographer Richard Slater, featuring 400 images taken over five years.

Pride in London parade

Pride in London parade - Credit: Archant

Running at the Royal Geographical Society until October 17, the exhibition and accompanying book are divided into six themes:

Tribal London celebrates Londoners’ social groupings, from Camden Town punks and Gay pride marchers to Royal Ascot racegoers.

Faith In London highlights the co-existing religions, from Southall Sikhs to worshippers in a Whitechapel Mosque.

Where's Wally fun

Where's Wally fun - Credit: Archant

The London Melting Pot spotlights the racial and ethnic diversity of Londoners, and Celebrating London the many parades and festivals that take place including the Canal Cavalcade in Little Venice, beating the bounds in Westminster and Shrove Tuesday pancake races.

Street London captures the energy and drama you encounter on a walk around London, from street performers in Covent Garden to a Michael Jackson tribute flashomb.

And London surprises are those seemingly out-of-context spots such as urban Brixton’s rustic windmill, the Roundhouse’s temporary beach, and Chelsea’s famed physic garden.

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Slater says: “It was a self-appointed commission. I am a Londoner, born and brought up here. I love London, its diversity, vitality and creativity, and I think it’s the people who make it the fabulous place it is. Rather than taking landscapes and tourist attractions the idea was to photograph people. The Royal Geographical Society backed the exhibition because it’s social geography - people in their place. But it’s also history, recording London today.”

Slater started with “a vague, unstructured list of subjects”, but crystallising the project into six themes helped focus the direction of his lens.

He believes the city has changed since his days as a UCS schoolboy in Hampstead, “immeasurably for the better”.

“It was a great city but it’s now wonderful,” he adds.

“A magnet for creativity and talent for the whole world. The extra nationalities who have come here have broken down some of the more rigid social barriers, widened our horizons and opened us to new ideas - from how we eat to our arts scene.

“I thought I knew the place but I now realise I hardly knew anything at all about the city.

“You can go from Royal Ascot to a shelter for the homeless in Deptford and it’s another world. Some places are so foreign and exotic, I would look around at an amazing scene like the Sikh new year in Southall, and think ‘can I really be in London?’.

People in London is free and open Mon-Fri 10-5pm and from 10-4 on Saturdays.