Social Mobility: Stanmore to Stratford (second attempt)

In my first post detailing my attempt to understand social-mobility by observing the different strata of society I outlined in a fairly potted way my reasoning for using the tube as a means to observe.

In this post I will explain my research methods, which in part have been based on my assumptions. However, I came across research carried out by Oliver O’Brien, a researcher and software developer at UCL Department of Geography, which dovetails perfectly with my area of study and have decided to use his results.

His focus was to map the most common languages, after English, spoken within a 200 metre radius of the tube station, resulting in his alternative London Underground map Tube Tongues. O’Brien explains his methods here.

In addition he used the same premise to create another map of the tube, this time asking the question, What do the locals do?

Before coming across O’Brien’s maps my idea was to come to a conclusion on the demographics of the commuters observed (see photos below) by looking at nationality and occupation. Although not a perfect fit I have decided to use his research into languages spoken, as opposed to nationalities, in order to utilise the wonderful resource that he has created. As O’Brien, O. (2014) suggests; Language correlates well with some ethnicities (e.g. South Asian) but not others (e.g. African), in London. Therefore, just because a tube station has French as its second language, doesn’t mean that French citizens live in the area in any great number, rather that people from Francophone countries do. Contrast this with Lithuanian as a second language. A priori knowledge leading to the conclusion that Lithuanians live in the area.

So, on to my assumptions:

Leaving Stanmore at 6am I sit in a carriage with people starting an early shift. Mainly manual labourers they will come from a mix of countries; Poland, Romania, the Baltic countries and from the Indian sub continent. This range of nationalities will continue to get on between Stanmore and Kilburn. There might also be the odd white-collar worker too. At Swiss Cottage and St Johns Wood Japanese men, and they will mainly be men, get on, on their way to work in the City and Canary Wharf. As the train journeys on towards the retail hub of the city, cleaners and shop workers will get on and off.

Towards Canary Wharf bleary-eyed bankers will get on and for a brief moment share space with cleaners and manual labourers in a democratic environment. Over half of the line has been covered and as the train enters Bermondsey it will be populated by night shift workers on their way home in the suburbs of the city.

Taken from my research journal and written before my trial run (i.e. it is fictitious) it is remarkably similar to what I experienced, as my photos below and in my earlier post detail.

Having given voice to my assumptions (no interviews were carried out), under each photo I will add data from both Tube Tongues and Working Lines, What do the locals do?

NB: As previously mentioned, English is the most common language spoken in the target area of each station, and as such I will only include the most commonly spoken foreign language. The lowest percentage of English spoken is in Queensbury, Kingsbury, Neasden and Wembley Park with percentages of; 50.1%, 52.7, 55.7% and 58.2% respectively.

Stanmore - 6.56

Stanmore – 6.56

Gujarati 6.4%                               Business Administration 7.4%

Romanian 1.7%                           Manager/proprietor 4.6%

Tamil 1.6%                                   Health 4.9%

Stanmore (6:59)

Canon’s Park – 6:59

Gujarati 8.6%                                Business Administration 6.6%

Tamil 2.6%                                    Health 5.3%

Romanian 2.3%                           Sales assistant 4.9%

Canon's Park (7:02)

Queensbury – 7:02

Gujarati 18.5%                             Sales assistant 10%

Romanian 8%                               Construction 7.5%

Tamil 6.2%                                    IT 4.4%

Queensbury (7:05)

Kingsbury – 7:05

Gujarati 19.1%                             Sales assistant 8.5%

Romanian 5.3%                           Construction 6.4%

Polish 3%                                     Records administration 4.7%

Kingsbury (7:07)

Wembley Park – 7:07

Gujarati 6.8%                              Sales assistant 7.5%

Polish 4.8%                                  IT 7.2%

Arabic 3.1%                                 Cleaning 4.8%

Wembley Park (7:11)

Neasden – 7:11

Polish 6.7%                                    Construction 7%

Arabic 4%                                       Sales assistant 6.8%

Somali 4%                                      Cleaning 5.6%

Neasden (7:14)

Dollis Hill – 7:14

Polish 6%                                        Sales assistant 6.5%

Portuguese 4.4%                           Other elements 6%

Gujarati 3.2%                                 Cleaning 5.6%

Dollis Hill (7:16)

Willesden Green – 7:16

Polish 4%                                        Education 6.1%

Portuguese 3.4%                           Art/media 5.1%

Arabic 2%                                       Marketing 4.7%

Willesden Green (7:18)

Kilburn – 7:18

Arabic 2.6%                                   Marketing 6.6%

French 2.4%                                  Business administration 5.7%

Polish 1.7%                                   Art/media 5.1%

Kilburn (7:18)

West Hampstead – 7:18

French 2.6%                                  Business administration 9.3%

Italian 1.6%                                   Business 6.7%

Polish 1.3%                                   Marketing 6.5%

West Hampstead (7:22)

Finchley Road – 7:22

Japanese 3.4%                              Business administration 8%

French 2.6%                                  Business 6.6%

Spanish 2%                                   Education 5.1%

Finchley Road (7:24)

Swiss Cottage – 7:24

Japanese 4.8%                              Business 8.6%

Albanian 2.4%                              Business administration 7.1%

Persian 2.2%                                 Legal 5.6%

Swiss Cottage (7:25)

St John’s Wood – 7:25

Arabic 5.2%                                   Business 9%

Japanese 4.1%                               Managing Director 7%

French                                            Business administration 6.8%

Baker Street (7:27)

Baker Street – 7:27

French 5.3%                                Business 10.9%

Arabic 4%                                    Managing Director 10%

Italian 2.1%                                 Business administration 7.6%

Bond Street (7:29)

Bond Street – 7:29

French 4%                                      Business 9.3%

Arabic 3.9%                                   Managing Director 7.2%

Spanish 3.4%                                Manager/proprietor (misc) 6.5%

Green Park (7:33)

Green Park – 7:33

French 5.1%                               Business 14%

Arabic 3.4%                                Managing Director 7.7%

Italian 2.5%                               Manager/proprietor (misc) 7.2%

Westminster (7:35)

Westminster – 7:35

Mandarin/Cantonese 4.7%        Business 8.4%

German 1.9%                                Education 7.5%

Russian 1.7%                                Managing Director 6.9%

Waterloo (7:37)

Waterloo – 7:37

Tagalog 5.5%                                Nursing 12.2%

Mandarin/Cantonese 4%           Business administration 7.5%

Cantonese 2.4%                           Business 5.8%

Southwark (7:39)

Southwark – 7:39

French 2%                                      Art/media 5.7%

Spanish 1.6%                                 Business 5.4%

Business administration 6.1%

London Bridge (7:41)

London Bridge – 7:41

Tagalog 1.8%                                Nursing 7.5%

French 1.6%                                  Business 8.1%

Italian 1.5%                                  Business administration 7.1%

Bermondsey (7:43)

Bermondsey – 7:43

Spanish 2.8%                                Business administration 5.8%

French 2.2%                                  Other elementary services 5.8%

Polish 2.1%                                    IT 3.8%

Canada Water (7:45)

Canada Water – 7:45

Mandarin/Cantonese 4.2%         Business administration 8.6%

Spanish 2.3%                                 Business 6.9%

French 1.5%                                   IT 5.6%

Canary Wharf (7:48)

Canary Wharf – 7:48

Mandarin/Cantonese 3.6%         Business 17.9%

French 3.2%                                   Business administration 13.3%

German 2.4%                                 Managing Director 12.9%

Interestingly large Bengali communities live close to Canary Wharf, but do not show up on statistics of languages spoken in Canary Wharf itself.

North Greenwich (7:50)

North Greenwich – 7:50


English 78.2%                                        Other elementary services 8.2%

Mandarin/Cantonese 3.8%                 Sales assistant 6.1%


Canning Town (7:53)

Canning Town – 7:53

Lithuanian 3.6%                          Business 6.4%

Bengali 2.8%                                IT 6.1%

Mandarin/Cantonese 2.3%       Business administration 4.9%

West Ham (7:55)

West Ham – 7:55

Bengali 6%                                     Sales assistant 7.1%

Lithuanian 2.3%                           Cleaning 5.6%

Romanian 2.3%                            Other elementary services 5.2%

Stratford (7:58)

Stratford – 7:58

Bengali 10.4%                               Sales assistant 7.7%

Portuguese 4.3%                          Cleaning 6.5%

Romanian 3.2%                            Records administration 5.7%


There are two types of data which must be considered when looking at my research question ‘ How can a[n] (embodied) space be socially mobile?’ The first is the data crunched by the *ONS from its 2011 Census. The second type of data is far more subjective, the visual data present in the photos. By mining the photos for clues I will take both into consideration and will present my thoughts and conclusions in my next post.

* Office for National Statistics

The information below each photo has been arranged in two columns for ease of viewing and should be read as a column, and not left to right.

The employment information came from data sets created by the ONS from the 2011 census. This information was collated by Oliver O’Brien.


 Photos taken on November 14th, 2014

4 thoughts on “Social Mobility: Stanmore to Stratford (second attempt)

  1. Very interesting work. Some questions: how did you take the photos so that they are all from the same position and no one seems to notice that you are photographing them? how did you determine ethnicity and occupation, just by looking and guessing? What does “potted” mean? (in the US it would mean drunk 🙂

    1. Hi Eric,
      Thanks for your interest. Re. photos: I took them with my mobile phone, which raises ethical issues. I’ll be addressing them in the report that I’m going to write up to conclude my investigation into social [im]mobility. Actually, I’ve just come back from filming on the tube (metro) and no-one seemed to mind at all. In contrast to people not knowing that I was photographing, here I had a large tripod with a film camera on top, and it was very obvious what I was doing. Re. ethnicity and occupation: the stats under each photograph come from the 2011 Census (produced by the Office for National Statistics) and were crunched by a researcher at University College London. In addition I live close to the Jubilee Line and know the socio-demographic makeup of the majority of the areas that the line passes through and can make a fairly accurate guess as to jobs and nationalities of the people on the train. I’m actually going to discuss ‘evidence’ in terms of visual and data in my report, and it may even come up in my next blog post. ‘Potted’ doesn’t mean drunk here, but to present information in a simplified or abridged form. However, we have a huge amount of terms related to every aspect of being drunk. Have a great Sunday.

  2. Rapha, lovely work! I took the tube with you when seeing your pictures. But I keep on thinking how would you escape from judging people by their faces and clothes. Do you have anything in mind to make your future statements more acurate? Interviews maybe? Try also the bus earlyin the morning, I took the New Cross-Paddington once at 4:30 am. It was quite an experience. Almost nobody was speaking English. Most of them where workers heading downtown. Good luck on your work! It is great so far.

    1. Hi Tarcisio,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Glad you like what you’ve seen! Let me answer your questions. Re. photos: this assignment on social mobility comes from a module called ‘Visual and Inventive Practice’, and requires us to use photography, film and sound as part of our research. In addition, part of my report will look at the subjectivity of photography and visual ‘truth’. I use data from government sources, but also don’t try to hide that some of my conclusions are assumptions based on posteriori evidence. I do intend to carry out interviews on the tube too, but will do this in the first week of January. I chose the Jubilee Line as it’s my local line, but also because in addition to having areas with different demographics, it travels through, what I term, the ‘four centres of power’, commercial, tourism, political and financial. Not much time to celebrate Xmas, but my assignment topics fascinate me, so that’s not a problem.

      Have a wonderful Xmas and NY, and please say hi to Claudia and little Gabi.

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