How woke is your city?

The most progressive places to live and work in the UK revealed

Oxford
(Image credit: Getty)

When you’re choosing a place to live, what are your top criteria? Good schools for the kids, a safe neighbourhood, or maybe plenty of green spaces could be high up the list. But while these practical considerations will always inform our choice of places to live, for many of us, how progressive a city or town is on sociopolitical issues is also becoming increasingly important. Or, in today’s terms, how ‘woke’ it is.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines woke as the quality of being ‘aware’ or ‘well-informed in a political or cultural sense’, and ‘alert to social injustice’. The word is now used colloquially to encompass an awareness about a range of issues, from gender to the environment, race and class, and to being politically active (that is, voting). 

And now a study* has set out to measure the wokeness of major UK cities, ranking them according to five parameters: search trends, the gender pay gap, recycling rates, voter turnout, vegan and vegetarian food availability, ultra-low emission vehicles, and council diversity. 

The majority of the cities and towns that make it into the top 10 are university towns. Large university student bodies have traditionally driven political and cultural activity in Oxford, which takes the top spot, beating Cambridge, Bristol, and Cardiff. 

But when cities are looked at in terms of their scores on the individual criteria, a very different picture emerges. St Albans may only be in 18th place overall, but it ranks top for its recycling effort. Brighton & Hove is second overall, but it has the best offering of vegetarian and vegan food options. And the city with the narrowest gender pay gap? It’s Swansea, doing Wales proud. 

Thinking of settling in one of these woke towns? The good news is that many of them are affordable to both rent and buy in. Read up on mortgages in our beginner’s guide. 

*A study performed by Bankrate