Flowing through the heart of the capital, the history of the river Thames offers a powerful symbol for the lives of Londoners through the centuries. In fact, there have been people living on the site since before Roman times, washing there, catching fish and watching the horizon for signs of invaders.
On Friday 6 September, David Cameron refuted a Russian official's summation that Britain was 'just a small island' by delivering a speech that reeked of a Gove-esque approach to popular history entwined with petulant patriotism. He seemed to cry out that "Britain's one of the bigger kids too, even if it wasn't allowed to go to war this time", calling upon the rhetoric of the past as if to prove Britain's place in the present world and reimagining it as it suited him.
Politicians love to invoke history. It's fodder for Syria, tax policy, welfare reform and what to do about the environment. The late historian Tony Judt once argued that we suffer from a dangerous illusion, namely "'that we live in a time without precedent . . . and that the past has nothing to teach us''. Sure enough.
When I was asked to think about a project drawing on the musical history of Carnaby (Carnaby Street itself plus the 12 streets that surround it), I thought about what it meant for a place to be so strongly associated with a time, in the way Carnaby Street has been with the 1960s. Often when I have mentioned the project to people, they have answered by talking about 'that time' as if it only existed then.