Tuesday, 15 April 2008
Over the last few weeks, as extracts from the book appeared in the press, the book itself was published and I started giving talks around the country, I've been contacted by people from all over England with stories to tell. Many of the issues in the book, from the privatisation of city streets to the death of small farms, have touched people - and many of them, of course, are happening where they are too.
What I would really like this book to do is give people all over England a sense that they are not alone; that what they thought was an isolated local incident - a new superstore; the destruction of an old boatyard; the demolition of a pub - is actually part of a national trend. That there are reasons for it and ways to stop it.
Perhaps this is starting to happen already. Either way I would like this blog to encourage the process. So if something is happening in your area - good or bad - which relates to the themes of the book, do let me know. I'd like this blog to become something of a compendium of local and national campaigns and news, good and bad, which help define the battle against the bland.
Here are some cases I've been told about since publication:
Here in my home town of Oxford, people are mobilising in an attempt to fend off the arrival of a vast new shopping centre - three times the size of the current model - which threatens to finally convert this medieval city into a clone town par excellence. More about that here.
In Crystal Palace, London, the local Community Association is fighting Ken 'green' Livingstone's plans to flog off parts of Crystal Palace Park to private developers, who want to build - surprise, surprise - 176 luxury flats (quick thought: the looming credit crunch and ongoing collapse in house prices might turn out to be a rather good thing in two ways: it could make rural properties more affordable to local people, and it might stop the insane 'luxury apartments' boom in its tracks). More on their struggle here.
Also in London, artists and actors in Covent Garden are fighting plans to clone the ancient market. Covent Garden Market has got itself a new corporate 'branding director' who wants it to attract 'high level shoppers' rather than the sort of people who like little market stalls and chaotic buskers. You can sign a petition about that here.
In Lancaster, a Carnival of Culture was held last month both to celebrate the city's character and to protest about a coming cloning project. Our old friends Centros Miller (more about them in the book) are planning a huge corporate 'regeneration' scheme. There's a film of the carnival here. The campaign's website is here.
The rapacious Centros, meanwhile, are after the Somerset city of Wells too - here's what locals are doing about that. Maybe, like the noble knights of Bury St Edmunds, they should resort to extreme measures.
Finally an honourable mention to a non-English but nonetheless excellent and important local campaign to save a valuable community pub in Cardiff from redevelopment. Visit the community's website and lend your support to the fight to save the Pantmawr Inn.
Keep 'em coming...