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.
Rather than exposing the City of London as the UK’s last rotten borough and exploring the area’s often disreputable history – the racist tropes cooked up by Protestant bigots in Grub Street, the violence and extra-legal activity around the Shrieval Election of 1682, or the notorious bawdy houses of Cripplegate etc. etc. – the Culture Mile has to date consisted of the super-bland artwashing. Instead of the proposed Centre of Music being built on the current Museum of London site, we’d rather see housing for refugees. Likewise there is already a huge daily footfall of visitors in the Culture Mile area and seeking to increase this will make life worse for its residents. Tourists aren’t wanted and nor are retail outlets selling overpriced goods to sightseers either.Read more "Culture Mile: Tourists Go Home – Refugees Welcome!"
The history of Grub Street is far more complex than the cartoon version deployed by those using despicable poverty chic to brand their corporate hospitality operations at the Grubstreet Author. There is still much poverty in the extensive social housing immediately to the north of The Grubstreet Author, and a considerable number of people who are Irish or of Irish descent in the immediate area. The anti-Irish hate spewed out by Grub Street is something The Brewery should show more sensitivity towards. We suggest it renames its new venture after one of the victims of Bloody Sunday, when 14 unarmed civilians were murdered in cold blood by British soldiers on 30 January 1972 – and as many again were shot but survived. Grub Street racism helped fuel and justify endless British massacres in Ireland, including those overseen by Oliver Cromwell. It should go without saying we’d also like to see the City of London owned Cromwell Tower – just off Chiswell Street – renamed Devlin Tower, in honour of the politician and Irish civil right activist Bernadette Devlin McAliskey.Read more "Grubstreet Author: Corporate Hospitality & Poverty Chic"
The money the City of London burns on artwashing itself via the Culture Mile and other projects is dwarfed by the sums it lavishes on propaganda promoting the interests of the finance industry, tax havens and wealth inequality. And even the crumbs thrown at the arts and ‘charity’ by the City don’t really benefit anyone outside a wealthy elite; such spending is instrumental and designed to promote corporate greed as a public good. The Culture Mile isn’t much of a smokescreen for this tunnel vision.Read more "Tunnel Visions: Another Culture Mile Flop!"
The ‘culture’ corporate funders like the City of London back impoverishes us and the world. Rather than understanding culture as a living and evolving part of our community, the City and its friends want to impose their vapid tastes on us. The aim is to displace living cultures with a dead one based on consumption, where the bottom line is coldly calculated in cash. For us what must always come first are the social relations that create cultures; in stark contrast the ‘City of Culture’ model is based on the commodification and reification of human activity. City of London artwashing is both an attempt to throw a cloak of respectability over the money-grabbing activities of the rich, and a continuation of these activities by transforming what were truly human activities and relations into economic calculations in which objects and balance sheets are valued over what really matters – the people!Read more "Boycott City of London Artwashing"
Reclaim EC1 has explained in previous posts why the Culture Mile is a bad news. What we haven’t done is focus on how once it’s in operation its going to be hated by those who live in The Barbican. However its obvious that the Cultural Mile is intended to attract an unsustainable number of tourists into the north west corner of the City, and Barbican residents are going to bear the brunt of this, with their lives disrupted by noise alongside the ongoing destruction of their estate. The latter will mostly just be the result of an expanded footfall the Barbican architects never envisaged, although there will no doubt be an increase in the low levels of ‘anti-social behaviour’ residents are already complaining about (in relation to the Banksy graffiti the City used to promote its Jean-Michel Basquiat exhbition at the Barbican art gallery)…Read more "If The Barbican’s Banksy Graffiti Peeved You, Then You’ll Hate The Culture Mile!"
Before I sat down to write this piece, I came across a photograph on social media posted yesterday and captioned: “Back of Liverpool Street Station – the sterile hell of a corporate winter wonderland.” The area shown in this smartphone snap is in the City of London and what was said about it really chimed with my feelings over not just the Culture Mile but also most City Public Realm projects in recent years. The council’s Department of the Built Environment is clearly in need of reform just as much as the political body that controls it. We really do need to take back the city.Read more "Culture Mile: A Cynical Exercise in Marginalisation & Social Exclusion"