Breakfast with the Mayor:the Living Wage and Poetry

Yesterday I had breakfast [ 8.30am in City Hall, which meant leaving home at 7.30am fast  asleep – I don’t do before 9am easily] with Boris Johnson, the London Mayor.

Well when I say breakfast it was half a cup of coffee and a very small croissant. The main event was a discussion and talk about the London Living Wage which had just been increased to 38.55 per hour and the London Citizens action groups’ part in campaigning for this. Boris or Bozza as we call we call him, is all in favour and he was forthright yesterday talking about companies ‘red in tooth and claw’ who still find it economically viable. About 80 firms are formally accredited by the Living Wage Foundation and another 47 are awaiting accreditation. Another 73 employers have said they are committed to the scheme. Bozza, said: “By building motivated, dedicated work forces the living wage helps businesses to boost the bottom line and ensures that hard working people who contribute to London’s success can enjoy a decent standard of living. You can see a video of him talking about this on:


A multi segment panoramic image of the London ...

A multi segment panoramic image of the London skyline from the Bermondsey banks of the Thames. Français : Image panoramique de Londres depuis les rives de la Tamise. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City Hall is a wonderful building – circular – with a great position on the Thames. It is right by Potter’s Field Park – a potter’s field is usually where they buried the indigent – but in this case this was not the origin of this park!

This area was actually the site of some potteries: In the early 1600’s the area became famous for English Delftware after religious persecution forced many Dutch potters to flee from Holland. The Pickleherring Pottery (love the name!) was established in 1618, closing in 1708. In the 1750’s a number of new wharves were built and by 1856 there were two granaries operating from Potters Fields site. Tower Bridge opened in 1894 and by 1906 the parks river frontage was formed of new wharves and warehousing as part of the Upper Pool of London.

It was a crisp sunshiny morning and the Thames glistened and the sky was blue and London was looking sparkling. The skyline in all directions was spectacular, the Shard towered above us as we came out of London Bridge station and across the river we could see the Tower of London. Old Vs new in contrast.


And in complementation.  All the more reason to enjoy the poem of Ben Okri which was commissioned to run around the circular ramp up the outer edge of City Hall to the lecture hall. Which we did and I include here below for you all to enjoy. I took from someone’s website as you can see – he couldn’t find the text initially either…

I’m delighted to see from Ben Okri’s biography that he has been awarded a doctorate by my university too…

Ben Okri (born on March 15, 1959) is a Nigerian poet and novelist. Having spent his early childhood in London, he and his family returned to Nigeria in 1968. He later came back to England, embarking on studies at the University of Essex. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Westminster (1997) and the University of Essex (2002), and was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 2001. Since he published his first novel, Flowers and Shadows (1980), Okri has risen to an international acclaim, and he is often described as one of Africa’s greatest writers. His best known work, The Famished Road, was awarded the 1991 Booker Prize. He has also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa, the Aga Khan Prize for fiction, and was given a Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Lines in potentis

One of the magic centres
Of the world;
One of the world’s
Dreaming places.
Ought to point the way
To the world.
Here lives the great music
Of humanity
The harmonisation of different
Histories, cultures, geniuses,
And dreams.
Ought to shine to the world
And tell everyone
That history, though unjust,
Can yield wiser outcomes.
And out of bloodiness
Can come love
Out of slave-trading
Can come a dance of souls
Out of division, unity;
Out of chaos, fiestas.
City of tradition, conquests,
And variety;
City of commerce and the famous river,
Tell everyone that the future
Is yet unmade.
Many possibilities live in your cellars.
Nightmares and illuminations.
Boredome and brilliance.
Tomorrow’s music sleeps
In undiscovered orchestras,
In unmade violins,
In coiled strings.
Spring waits by the lakes,
Listening to the unfurling daffodils.
Summer lingers with the hyperborean worms,
Awaiting an astonishing command from
The all-seeing eye of ra.
Tomorrow’s music sleeps
In our fingers,
In our awakening souls,
The blossom of our spirit,
The suggestive buds of our hearts.
Tell everyone the idea is to function together
As good musicians would
In undefined future orchestras.
Let the energy of commerce flow,
Let the vision of art heal.
Technology, provide the tools.
Workers of the world
Re-make the world
Under the guidance of inspiration
And wise laws.
Create the beautiful music
Our innermost happiness suggests.
Delight the future.
Create happy outcomes.
And while autumn dallies
With the west wind
And the weeping nightingales
And while winter clears it
Sonorous throat
At the antipodean banquets
Preparing for a speech of hoarfrost
And icicles conjured from living breath,
I want to tell everyone
Through trumpets plated with
The fragrance of roses
That a mysterious reason
Has brought us all together,
Here, now, under the all-seeing
Eye of the sun.

Ben Okri
Lines In Potentis
December 2002

Posted by Dan Hill on October 08, 2003 in Cities & Places



One thought on “Breakfast with the Mayor:the Living Wage and Poetry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s