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Talking Location With … author Swéta Rana – LONDON

6th July 2023

Swéta Rana#TalkingLocationWith … Swéta Rana, author of Queuing for the Queen – LONDON

How the queue for the Queen captured the spirit of London

“It’s 11 a.m. on a Friday, and I’ve been dragged out to shuffle from Southwark Park to Westminster in slow motion, part of an epically long human chain snaking along London’s spine, the River Thames.” So laments Tania, main character of Queuing for the Queen. But as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that this journey through London’s heart will transform Tania’s life – and the lives of many others.

In September 2022, thousands upon thousands of people embarked on the same pilgrimage, edging westward across London to view Queen Elizabeth II’s lying-in-state. It was a time of grief, resilience, and community above all else. And I believe it was the spirit of London incarnate – the spirit of the UK as a whole.

There are sometimes complaints that UK politics and culture are too London-centric. I completely appreciate that view, and I agree that every single last corner of the country should be regarded and treated equally. But I think a reason we often default to talking about the capital is because London is such a microcosm of the wider country in many ways. In London, you can find cobbled streets, ancient temples, lush greenery, glass and chrome tower blocks grazing the sky, zoos and farms, cinemas and universities, gently flowing canals and bustling high streets. Whatever you’re after, London will have it.

I’m not from London; I moved here when I was twenty-one, more than a decade ago. But I am a Londoner. This city welcomed me into its heart, just as it welcomes everyone who aspires to call it home, for however long. Whether you’ve been living here for five minutes or fifty years, it’s the great equaliser: we are all Londoners.

As a Londoner, I’ve honed the art of darting and weaving through the throngs at densely packed train stations. I have lively debates about the merits of different parks, from the dogs of Hampstead Heath to the dinosaurs of Crystal Palace. I eat at restaurants offering the best food from all over the world, and I go to film premieres and sold-out West End shows. I know the colours for each Tube line, and I have strong, heavily biased opinions on which lines are the best and worst (long live the Northern and Victoria lines! May the Central line be banished forever!). I live and breathe London every single day, and it’s intoxicating. London is diversity, both of people and of experience. It’s friendship, old and new. London is excitement, and education, and contemplation, and enduring unity.

I saw all of this, this heady and beautiful spirit of London, in the queue for the Queen.

Swéta Rana

Photo credit: BBC

The queue began at Southwark Park, and stretched across the Southbank, along the country’s most famous river. It passed the Shard, London’s mighty obelisk, a symbol of the advancement and innovation that so defined the decades of Elizabeth’s rule. It passed Borough Market, where a myriad of different international cuisines can be found. It passed the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall and the British Film Institute, bastions of culture, symbols of Britain’s love of the arts and entertainment. It passed the London Eye, where local and tourists alike flock and become one, the entire globe represented in one space. And of course, it ended at Westminster, an icon of British life, where laws are created and history is made. Where Queen Elizabeth II rested, her reign at an end.

The queue passed so many different, powerful representations of the UK’s best qualities – and it embodied those qualities itself. It was people coming together from all over the world, and it was fortitude in the face of immense distress and uncertainty. It was strength, and stoicism. And it was joy and laughter. It was all the qualities I love about our capital city.

The queue was in London, but London was also in the queue. It’s my hope that Queuing for the Queen captures that magic of togetherness, that brilliance of diversity, that spirit of London.

Swéta RanaSwéta Rana

Queuing For The Queen by Swéta Rana publishes on 6th July in Paperback and audiobook by Aria, Bloomsbury.

Catch the author on Twitter @s_rana_

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