Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Urban Wounding.

I have long wanted to show how my city seems to be falling apart. One shop closes

and then another. One small livelihood,

one dream,

and then another afternoon of nail on board.

A good idea, or so someone thought. No longer.

It feels like a haemorrhage, and no one knows the cause -

except maybe a borrowing on the strength of what was never there

and businesses fed on nothing but hope

sad bravado,

and empty promises.


Blogger pierre l said...

Oh dear! Your poor city. I have a friend who used to work part-time in a bookshop in your city. I need to look her up.
I notice one of the pics says "under offer"; I wonder if that's going to become a charity shop.

Wed Aug 19, 12:13:00 am  
Blogger Jud said...

I wonder Clare, if it was ever thus, in every city, at almost every age, in at least some part of time. (And I do mean city, no village or hamlet).

There are similar sights in towns small and large throughout the US. As a highway shifts, and takes away traffic, businesses often wilt and die.

I know that in my fair city a multi-use, multi-level state of the art business and entertainment district was built in a wealthy community. It failed horribly. I know. At the time I worked for a company that had a shop there, and after a big buzz of traffic for the first three months, we were not making enough to cover monthly expenses. We kept waiting for the tide to come back in, but our boat was left stranded on the sand.

Great pics. Thanks for sharing

Wed Aug 19, 01:56:00 am  
Anonymous Mary said...

So poetic, but also sad.

I've just finished a book that might help explain things a bit. It's called "Who's Your City?" by Richard Florida. It talks about which mega-regions of the world are economically successful and why. The big secret is openness. The more open a city and its people are to new experiences and diversity, the more successful they happen to be.

Wed Aug 19, 03:36:00 am  
Blogger Paul Halpern said...

It is especially sad to see the beautiful Tudor-style buildings boarded up. I hope the economy turns around for your region (and all the other cities, towns and villages that are suffering).

Wed Aug 19, 05:00:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

There is only one bookshop left now, Pierre. I spoke to my (then) publisher's area rep five years ago and even then things were bad. He said he used to have to put aside a day, but then it took only a hour or so. When we first moved here there were at least 8 bookshops - chain and independents - but now there is just Waterstones that sells just books.

Yes, it could well be a charity shop - we have an increasing number of those now.

Certainly it seems to be cyclical, Jud. I think when we first came here, 20 odd years ago, the city was in the middle of a boom. On a Saturday it was difficult to force a way through the crowds. But before that, so we heard, things were not so good. The decline in recent years is pre-recession. Some people say the rents are too high, some blame the parking costs, others (and I think this may be key) blame the growth of two large out-of-town shopping centres.

Ironically, and this has made me think I should do my next blog post on this, the city has just built a new multiuse gleaming complex at the outskirts. It seems particularly badly timed now - though of course no one knew what would happen when it was being planned. I hope it doesn't turn out to be a turkey like the one you describe, Jud.

That book sounds fascinating, Mary! Thanks for telling me about it. I think I might have to try and get round to reading this.

I agree Paul - it seems much more sad in the older buildings...and some of these buildings are really old. They have housed businesses since medieval times - it will be really sad if they are allowed to stand empty now. When things are left empty. I've noticed, decay seems to inevitably follow.

Wed Aug 19, 08:39:00 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

It's starting here too in Ireland, in this town, Dundalk, where I live. Closed signs, for sale signs. Examiner signs. All a bit sad and making us all feel like we got a bit too big for our boots.

Wed Aug 19, 10:48:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Barbara "too big for our boots" is right, I think.

Wed Aug 19, 10:59:00 am  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

An what about pound stores? I went down to Clydebank last week and another three of them have moved into the mall. Who is buying all this junk?

Wed Aug 19, 04:21:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Jim, got one of those here too! We also have several shops devoted to very cheap books. Now, I know those are more worthy, but it makes me worry about the publishing industry.

Wed Aug 19, 04:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Gilles said...


A precise description of what is happening in England since 1990:


and also what is happening worldwide:

Wealth inequality has reached grotesque levels. The richest 1% of adults consists of 37 million adults owning at least $515,000 of assets each. Between them, they own 40% of the planet's wealth, totalling $125 trillion. The richest 10% own 85% of the wealth, while the bottom half of the population own only 1.1% of global wealth. The assets of the world's typical person are around $2,200. Globalisation, it is claimed, is good for everyone. Yet there are still over 1 billion people struggling to survive on less than $1 a day.

— Sources: The New York Times 6.12.06, The Guardian 30.6.06, International Herald Tribune 8.12.06, The Guardian 8.12.06, Washington Post 8.12.06, Financial Times 25.8.06, Financial Times 29.10.06.
As for the cause, one has to be blind not to see it; I'm looking at you, Mrs. Thatcher ; I won't elaborate, for fear Clare will think I'm a marxist.

So, Mary, there's nothing poetic about the consequences of triumphant greed. I think we're also responsible, each one of us, when we elect coward politicians who allow delocalization of work and think financial deregulation is a good idea.

I'm old enough to remember a time when there was a baker, a shoemaker, a butcher's shop, furniture stores, bookstore, printers shops, small industry, etc. in every neighborhood, when meat, fruits, vegetables, clothing didn't come from the other side of the planet but from local farms or producers, when there was 50 automakers in England all selling locally, also, when African didn't need to import food.

It's not that I'm nostalgic for the (largely idealized) past, but we should use our marvelous technology to produce all we can locally like in the past, especially food and clothing.

Wed Aug 19, 07:37:00 pm  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

The common high streets across the UK were already suffering from the development of out-of-town retail parks, which always seem to need a car to get to, alas. This demise has been exacerbated by the downturn in the economy. It is all very sad to see.

On the pound shops I say buyer beware: some bargains and some downright high profit margins to cover costs. Take a bottle of shampoo for example - often the brand will be less than £1 in a supermarket or Boots. Having said that, I've started buying batteries for my camera in my local one of late. They do seem like decent VFM.

Lastly on town centres, in particular south Wales. It was recently reported that the big car park in the centre of Newport had been completed but that the retail mall was now on hold due to retailers pulling out. Downturn in economy was one reason, but this combined with the major development of St David's Centre 2 in the centre of Cardiff, which will include the biggest John Lewis outside of London. No one seems to have thought on the wider geographic scale and a big white elephant has now landed.

Wed Aug 19, 07:49:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I am sorry Gilles, believe me I harbour no respect at all for Margaret Thatcher, but even I cannot hold her responsible for global poverty (although granted she helped t contribute to it - certainly for any in the UK). I would just like to say that I think a lot of what Karl Marx said was profound.

In defense of Mary I think she was just saying I was making my point in a poetic way (which was kind of her) - not that what I said was poetic.

Finally, I agree with what you say about the ridiculous way we transport things across the globe. I think we are all guilty of encouraging that by buying it (although of course you may not, Gilles).

I'm afraid I am nostalgic for the separate shops. Often I imagine shopping like my parents and grandparents did. It gave us a reason to spend a lot of our day interacting with people, and we know now that that is one of the most important ways of cultivating happiness. This is itself makes it a vitally important and a reason to regret its passing.

Thank you Gilles for your figures and research - they are very interesting and really add meat to your thoughts. I much appreciate them.

CFR: yes, everywhere seems the same. We cause our own demise in so many different ways. I love your expression 'a big white elephant has now landed, BTW - it gives such a strong impression!

Wed Aug 19, 11:13:00 pm  
Anonymous Gilles said...

Sorry, I didn't mean that Mrs. Thatcher (together with president Reagan) was the only one responsible for the "New Economics", otherwise known as "neo-liberalism"; but she was one of the first heads of state to believe in it (maybe for sound reasons) and implement it. She is emblematic, if you will. Now thing have gone way too far, of course.

I understood that Mary was saying your photos are poetic... Maybe the are, in a way.

I used to buy Rockport shoes because they were made "locally" (I mean in Massachusetts, near here), but Reebok bought Rockport, and Adidas bought Rockport/Reebok... and now the shoes are made in China. But I only buy locally grown food... at twice the price on average of supermarket food.

Thu Aug 20, 12:13:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Then I agree with you Gilles! Thatcher, in my opinion, made greed acceptable, and social inequality. It was a quite unapologetic era.

I think that soon everyone will have to do what you do - although I fear by then it will be too late.

Thu Aug 20, 04:48:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

It's beginning to feel a lot like that in our town. Like the shops are the eyes of the streets and they are closing one by one. To begin with it just felt sleepy. Now it's beginning to feel more like dead. A bit scary, a bit abandoned. I start having post-apocalytpic fantasties as I walk along. I wonder what happened, what I missed, how I survived.

Thu Aug 20, 12:42:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Wonderful imagery, Jem! Shuttered windows like closed eyes - love it!

Thu Aug 20, 07:48:00 pm  
Blogger aliholli said...

Oh Clare,I`ve been thinking this for ages. It`s sad and it`s worrying. We just haven`t got anything to attract visitors here any more, no theatre (that`s inexcusable) not even a cinema... free parking at the CH oaks etc... it doesn`t encourage people to come into the city does it? Did we ever fix our city walls?? Yes I remember Saturday`s being unbearably crowded.

Sun Aug 23, 12:38:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Exactly Ali - and yes, as you say the lack of any cultural venue just adds to the sense of desolation. It is such a shame because there is so much potential.

Sun Aug 23, 03:52:00 pm  

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