Cripplegate Is Not Disneyland! Stop Culture Mile Overtourism!

The City of London’s artwashing activities in the form of the Culture Mile are already leading to overtourism in the north-west enclave of this utterly undemocratic local authority’s fiefdom. This feudal council wants to fill the residential areas of Cripplegate and Aldersgate with cafes, restaurants, bars and trinket shops aimed at tourists, while rent hikes threaten the few retail outlets left that are of use to local people – such as an ironmongers and a greengrocers. The idea behind the Culture Mile is to turn our neighbourhood – alongside parts of Farringdon and Moorgate – into a theme park in which people can shop, eat and drink alcohol or coffee, before and after ‘enjoying’ a variety of super-bland entertainments. Tourists and trippers can take in a boring exhibition deemed safe enough for somewhere like the Barbican Art Gallery, listen to listless renditions of light classical music, or bore themselves stupid with other equally dull cultural manifestations. Such middle-brow snore fests are perfect for corporate junkets and those who feel the need to fool themselves into thinking that some worthless piece of entertainment is educational.

Overtourism occurs when there are too many visitors to a particular destination. “Too many” is subjective but it can be defined in different destinations by key stakeholders; and in the case of residential areas such as Cripplegate it is the needs of local residents that should be prioritised. When rent rises push out local retailers to make room for bars, restaurants and shops selling luxury goods and trinkets to tourists, that is overtourism. When you can’t get around because walkways are jammed with sightseers and visitors attending middle-brow ‘art’ events, that is overtourism. When tourists cannot view landmarks or transient cultural manifestations because of the crowds, when fragile ensembles of listed buildings become degraded, when street art is being commissioned by the local authority and covered with Perspex to protect it, when there are huge signs installed on walls to inform passersby about public art, when accommodation for key workers is replaced by luxury apartments aimed at property investors who’ll leave them empty and bank on a overheated housing market to reap them a profit – these are all signs of overtourism, as well as gentrification and social cleansing. And these are all things currently happening in Cripplegate and Aldersgate and which the City of London’s Culture Mile strategy is designed to exacerbate. We don’t want a new world-class classical music venue, which is the capstone in the Culture Mile nightmare – we want social housing for refugees constructed on the proposed site.

Our recent news searches for the “City of London Corporation” see this local authority’s flagship greenwashing policies come out as the top results. While we welcome improvements to air quality and restrictions on pollution, the City of London uses such policies to put a smiling face on the massively profitable money laundering activities it’s finance industry cronies run that enable corrupt regimes and corporations to loot the world and engage in acts of environmental vandalism. The City of London’s artwashing and equally stupid ‘historic’ ‘ceremonies’ such as the Lord Mayor’s Show serve the same purpose, while encouraging an unsustainable level of tourism within the Square Mile.

While we want the flood of tourists pouring into our part of London to go home, this is not all we want them to do. When day-trippers and tourists are lured into the City of London they are presented with a false and sanitised image of the area and the local authority that runs it. We need to inform them about what really goes on in the ‘Square Mile’ and the reasons for the existence of its equally square Culture Mile, so that when they go home they complain to their political representatives about undemocratic business votes in the City of London! We want them to make demands for financial transparency and an end to the web of tax havens in British Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories which act as proxies for the City of London. We want them to understand that the job of the Lord Mayor of London is to campaign for neo-liberal political and economic policies around the world, which benefit a tiny rich elite at the expense of the overwhelming majority! We want tourists and potential tourist to the Square Mile to understand that there are innumerable reasons they should BOYCOTT CITY OF LONDON ARTWASHING!

Pippa Henslowe.

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