The death of clone town britain?

February 3, 2009

According to the latest issue of Prospect, a rare advantage of the recession is that the closure of chains such as Woolworths opens up opportunities for alternative high street activities. Under the headline “Woolies—Britain’s least likely saviour”, the author notes:

Might the death of Woolworths save Britain’s high streets from the twin menaces of recession and uniformity? Art Space & Nature, an avant-garde Scottish art collective, think it just might, and have bold plans to brighten up Cumbernauld’s famously monstrous concrete town centre, by taking over at least one of Woolie’s 815 shuttered outlets. Neville Rae, an artist from the group, says a dozen students will exhibit in various abandoned shops, hoping to replace traditional high street bargains with “work responding to the social, political and aesthetic history of modernist new town planning”—a potentially more useful, if less comprehensible, public service than back-to-school specials and pic ‘n’mix.’

Note the interesting reference to Cumbernauld, celebrated at the New New Towns conference I have blogged about before. The article also mentions plans by the Institute of Community Cohesion’s head, Ted Cantle:

…to convert the empty Woolies into shiny new indoor markets, housing anyone from food retailers to farmers—who “presently have to contend with all weathers on windswept car parks” when selling their wares. Cantle wants the premises to be “available to local communities, rather than filled by the standard multinational brands.”

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