Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In with the Nu, out with the Olde

Like me (by 'like', I mean a person of able mind living in London), you might once have been under the impression that you lived in a city of history, culture and community values. I moved back last May after a couple of years in the west country, looking forward to launching myself headfirst into what, from afar, had appeared to be something of a cultural renaissance. Brick Lane was thriving, distilling the froth of London's international and artistic community. Word of mouth recommendations showed me where the best parties were; independent business people and imaginative collectives had set about organising movements that created a sense of celebration and spontaneity. The moment was all that mattered, free of corporate pressure or marketing strategy, profits be damned.

But what with the recent cultural theft of the Spitz, one of London's best and most distinctive independent music venues, and the destruction of Camden's last true historical centre - the Catacombs - I sense an unstoppable and ugly march over what has made London a unique cultural centre for so long. That other bone of contention - the smoking ban - has also been taken too far. Why is it so hard for the authorities to realise that smoking shisha in a cafe is simply not the same as lighting a fag in the middle of a restaurant? I fear it's only a matter of time before Brick Lane loses its distinctive, independently owned coffee shops and restaurants in favour of the likes of Aberdeen Angus and Starbucks. If the Catacombs mean so little in the face of corporate pressure, then what chance does the Truman Brewery stand? The city is losing its soul, anachronism is being ironed out and I'm getting the fear.