There are many efforts being made to brand London as a cultural hub for the Olympics, including a parade of exhibitions showcasing our most cherished British artists. But as the streets are taken over by road works and the promotions are getting more frequent, it is becoming increasingly obvious that they have failed to involve the Londoners themselves – there is no platform for our stories and thoughts of what London is and what we want it to be. We are rather being encouraged to flee the city and rent out our flats as the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements will take place out on our streets.
We can see the opposite happening in Iceland at the moment, where the population is coming together to co-create the Icelandic brand. Their tourism initiative, Inspired by Iceland shows an open country which are proud of what they have to offer. The public is welcoming the tourists to share their reality by inviting them to their homes and by offering a wide range of activities. A rich story library is also being collected, where former visitors share how Iceland has inspired them during their travels. The initiative feels like a perfect testament of how the Icelandic people have come together to get their country back on its feet after the financial crisis. Something which is further established by the country’s use of social media to get the citizens’ input when writing the new constitution.
The direct democracy of Iceland feels very far away from our London reality, where many of us didn’t even register to vote for the next mayoral election (yes, that was last week). This does however not mean that Londoners don’t care about their city and that there is no efforts being made in collecting their stories. Guardian recently launched the free audio app Streetstories, which guides users as they discover the Kings Cross area. Its the development of Hackney Hear, which also trigger audio via GPS and scores your journey with stories, music and poetry from East London. Listening to these stories it becomes obvious how many amazing characters we have in our city and how many stories are waiting to be told – for those who cares to listen.