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Cool London is dead, proclaims the Telegraph
April 10, 2014 7:10 AM   Subscribe


 
American spelling might be different, but I'd say that Capital run amouk is killing their Capitol. This is what happens when you debase the currency and hand control over to a bunch of central planners... it fuels all sorts of incredible market distortions.
posted by MikeWarot at 7:16 AM on April 10


It's taken its time about it but now London's finally ruining itself after years of ruining every other county it touches.
posted by dng at 7:20 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Both usages are spelt "capital" in Britain.
posted by dng at 7:21 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]


The Daily Telegraph, arbiter of cool.
posted by Segundus at 7:25 AM on April 10 [23 favorites]


It feels weird reading that on the Torygraph.
posted by amil at 7:26 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


The shrill whining about gentrification is starting to annoy me almost as much as the gentrification is.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:28 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Things have got so bad in London recently that Alex Proud isn't young any more.
posted by Segundus at 7:28 AM on April 10 [12 favorites]


"And it leaves the really cool kids – the art students and musicians and people starting out in the creative industries in Zone 3, or worse." Oh noes!

London obviously has changed and having somewhere to live is a big problem but a lot of this is pure nostalgia from someone who isn't one of the cool kids anymore. (Plus he immediately mentions New Cross in Zone 2 as an example of somewhere that is still cool.)
posted by ninebelow at 7:30 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I'm enjoying the irony of an arch-twat like Alex Proud rant against his reflection in the mirror. Two of his very own galleries are situated in Camden and Chelsea, and he fancies himself an artist. (Spoiler: he's just an art dealer, living off Rich people).

London is simply going from poor to rich. So much of modern iconic London is but fifteen years old - The London Eye; the Tate Modern; and the place has changed beyond all recognition, people want to live here again. It's also a bolt-hole for the youth of Southern Europe, my Spanish/Portuguese/Italian buddies note how fucked their own countries are - so they're here to make a living.

I think London is past its peak, and on a steady decline of some sort, but there's only one place to go when you're at the top.
posted by bookbook at 7:32 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Cities everywhere are not what they used to be in the 70s and 80s and even 90s when there were spaces cheap enough for the artists, weirdos, musicians, poets, wanderers, vagabonds, etc to live and thrive. All the nooks and crannies of cheapness that used to foster these communities are being taken over by high end development. People nostalgic for the old days are going to have to just get over it or go find new places in the country or somewhere else for the weirdos and artists and musicians and cool people to make their homes. It's sad but it's inevitable.
posted by spicynuts at 7:35 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]


Both usages are spelt "capital" in Britain.

In America as well, capital is the city, capitol is the building in which a legislative assembly meets. I don't think I've ever heard the usage of capitol outside an American context, but I could be off there. Because the article is talking about the city, it would be two capitals, no capitol.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:35 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Dear Alex - Look for the big loud red things in the street. They are buses. You can ride them to many places where you will find cool people doing cool things. Better yet, skip it. You're not invited, you insufferable tool.
posted by Optamystic at 7:37 AM on April 10 [6 favorites]


"This [place|thing|attitude] isn't cool anymore, and when I was 17 it was the coolest [place|thing|attitude] in the history of the universe!", cry middle-aged people throughout time.

Yeah, that's how cool works and has worked since the inventions of popular culture and the dissolution of the artist-patron symbiosis. A thing gets cool, people who aren't cool but have a lot of money buy the cool thing, and people who ARE cool but DON'T have any money go find something else. There is no inoculation against this syndrome that exists within a system where goods can be traded for money. This is a designed feature of the function f(x) where x = money and f = the process of an individual getting older.

Sorry, olds! I hear Budapest is cool, if you're twenty and it's 2008.
posted by penduluum at 7:37 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


Argh, I hate that I agree with some of the things he's saying--note to self: take shower immediately--but I especially agree with this:

"These people love the idea of living somewhere happening, but they can’t bear the reality."

This applies to any major urban center where prices go up. Lots of folks want that city buzz but once they start seeing homeless people, people spilling out of clubs and bars late at night (who don't tend to be quiet), or anything that might disrupt their weird ideal of a hip cityscape, then yeah, it starts to descend into NIMBYism.

Right. Off to cleanse myself for this one.
posted by Kitteh at 7:38 AM on April 10 [6 favorites]


Oh, poppycock. London has always been very expensive, it was already mind-boggling when I arrived in the early 2000s. Yet, the price of a room, in a shared house, in an artsy area is still between £400 and 600 a month, and you can still find one at £300 if you're lucky, and a 100sqm house is still around the half-million mark. The only difference is that the central, unaffordable zone has expanded. You couldn't easily live in Camden 10 years ago, now you can't easily live in Hackney. The cool people are still there, they've just moved to the East, to Walthamstow and Stratford and Peckham and I'm sure a lot more places I don't know about.
posted by Spanner Nic at 7:38 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


I think London is past its peak,

Didn't Richard II say the same thing?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:39 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


So what is the British equivalent of Portland?
posted by bukvich at 7:41 AM on April 10


So what is the British equivalent of Portland?

That would be Portland.
posted by pipeski at 7:42 AM on April 10 [7 favorites]


The Telegraph - manual click bait for the retired Col. in Hampshire crowd.

The British Portland is probably Bristol

Anyway, London is so big that the Manhattanisation of London by finance of killing funky mixed neighbourhoods can never fully win, because there is ALWAYS somewhere still run down and undesirable. Its just going to be further out zone-wise
posted by C.A.S. at 7:43 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


The population of London went up 12% between 2001 and 2011. That's the population of the boroughs of Westminster, Camden, Kensington & Chelsea, and Hackney, combined. Artists and creative people always live on the near-outskirts, it's not surprising that this is now further away from Charing Cross, even with all other things comparable.
posted by Spanner Nic at 7:49 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


How odd. Seems diametrically opposed to his previous whine about the 'Shoreditchification' of London.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:50 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Oh, haha, never mind, he links to that himself further down the page. RTFA Dave.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:51 AM on April 10


I mourn the Upworthification of our Internet to the point that a kind of maudlin whinge is now classified an "epic rant".
posted by Shepherd at 7:52 AM on April 10 [11 favorites]


Yup, Bristol is the preferable place to live in the U.K., but why live in the U.K. at all?
posted by jeffburdges at 7:56 AM on April 10


For the food and the weather
posted by dng at 7:58 AM on April 10 [10 favorites]


Also this guy is hilarious, with his talk of 'buying a house'. He clearly hasn't spoken to anyone under 40 except to lecture them about how much better it was in his day.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:09 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


why live in the U.K. at all?

It's what one does.
posted by thelonius at 8:10 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


At least he isn't as bad as some of the idiots that bemoan the gentrification of New York. Half the time they appear to be wistfully yearning for years when crime was rampant because it gave the city an 'edge'.
posted by vorpal bunny at 8:11 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Even if he's a wanker doing this in the Torygraph, the guy's right though. London has become an investment park for dodgy bankers and their friends, the Tory government running the city and country having been doing their best ethnically cleansing the poor, working class and lower middle classes out of the country, but to be honest, the idea that London is becoming uncool is the least of the city's worries.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:12 AM on April 10 [6 favorites]


So what is the British equivalent of Portland?

Brighton
posted by iotic at 8:20 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


Having spent a grand total of 48 hours of my life in London, I am playing a mental game with this article where I substitute neighborhoods I know in DC for places in London. I suppose you can do this with NYC, Atlanta, and other large cities.
posted by Thistledown at 8:22 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Oh, I do that all the time! It's actually pretty fun and if you're traveling with someone from the same city you know well, it can make for a fun argument about what parts of the city resemble your native city back home.
posted by Kitteh at 8:24 AM on April 10


You can't do much to London. Plague tried. Fire tried (many times - the bugger combusts on a regular basis). Jerry tried, Thatcher tried, but the damn place keeps rebuilding itself. It's a moving target.

And besides, where would everybody go? Birmingham?
posted by Devonian at 8:24 AM on April 10 [9 favorites]


I can't help but feel this has more to do with a 40-something feeling nostalgic for the years that have slipped away than it does anything that has to do with the rest of us.
posted by aught at 8:36 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I wonder what the Barclay Brothers made of this. Also, if you use the terms "riff-raff" and "Eurotrash" in a non-ironic way I will immediately discount everything else you say, you pompous arse.
posted by billiebee at 8:46 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


sings "riff-raff and eurotrash, are they related?" to the tune of Hairstyles and Attitudes
posted by moonmilk at 8:47 AM on April 10


So what is the British equivalent of Portland?

Hull.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:53 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


The British Portland is probably Bristol

Or Portisheadland as we call it.
posted by Paul Slade at 8:59 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Also, isn't this change in London pretty well what's already happened to Manhattan? Young people and bohemians get driven driven out by rising prices, establishing new enclaves in the outskirts of the city and leaving the centre to the dull rich. London's not gone quite as far down that road as New York yet, but it's heading for the same destination.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:06 AM on April 10


If this is at all comparable to what's happening in NYC, I don't think this is just a case of "I used to be cool, but then they changed what cool was". There is a very easily observable soul-crushing that happens to neighborhoods as the money rises past a certain point. If that point isn't named already, somebody should coin a term.
posted by the jam at 9:15 AM on April 10


Is it a recent phenomenon that the wealthy has so much interest in being perceived as "cool" (and ruining things that are in their pursuit to achieve coolness)? I understood that the classic upper class was happy to have nothing to do with mass appeal, to the point of aspiring to be invisible.

Anyway, what's wrong with "gentrify" as an all encompassing term? As in the outdoor spaces at venues that became popular in response to indoor smoking bans are being "gentrified" to the point of prohibiting smoking as well.
posted by deathmaven at 9:38 AM on April 10


This goal couldn't be more open, and somehow he still misses it. But don't throw out the baby here: London really does have a problem, driven by its unchecked housing market.

It's all very well saying that the cool people can just move to Zone 4, but then they are all in Zone 4, not Zones 1 and 2 where they were part of what made the city great. Plus they suffer all the drawbacks of Zone 4 life.

Someone mentioned Peckham, which is at least Zone 2. But it's also going Farrow+Ball at an astonishing rate, and 2-bed semis are nearing the £1m mark. Peckham will be snuffed out as a art enclave before it has a chance to burn.
posted by bonaldi at 9:41 AM on April 10


On the other hand, Manchester is a wonderful thriving city full of real people of all different incomes which will only get better as London slips into nothinghood. In short, I agree with this article's conclusion.
posted by Thing at 10:05 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


"This [place|thing|attitude] isn't cool anymore, and when I was 17 it was the coolest [place|thing|attitude] in the history of the universe!", cry middle-aged people throughout time.

Man, it almost makes me want to have lived somewhere cool growing up, so I could be bitter about it not being cool anymore. I feel left out.
posted by zabuni at 10:08 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


He's hitting some grain of truth here - go to Canary Wharf at lunchtime and its mind boggling just how many wealthy people there are doing and wearing and buying the same things. Stay till 6pm and you can enjoy seeing lots of high income professionals wedge themselves onto jubilee line trains like sardines. The cumulative loss of assumed dignity inside each tube carriage is colossal.

Something has gone a bit crazy with the house prices here - as he says, the formerly rich areas are now super rich areas.

On the other hand, I think the rise of the internet has led to _location_ being less important. in the 90s, to see 'what was happening' you had to be in one of a small number of 'happening' places. In 2014, groups of like-minded people can easily find each other and get a scene going anywhere they want - cool has been decentralised.
posted by memebake at 10:42 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]


When I read

the houses sport those identikit Elle Deco interiors that are the end result of bankers’ wives’ “visions”

I think about the profound lack of empathy it takes to write that sentence and publish it in a national newspaper. I feel icky and depressed because the author clearly has an unironic appreciation of the sordid artistic paucity he has projected onto a vaguely-drawn group of people. Secondly, I have come to detest this kind of faux sociological writing. I believe gentrification is a major problem for a number of reasons, but this kind of writing evidences a pattern of thought that brings out the worst of whatever ideology it represents--and helps to legitimize the kind of broad-brush-painting that underlies all forms of group-hating-group warfare.

While this piece is clearly in the land of 'fluff opinion', it's this kind of fluff opinion that is easy to consume and convinces people of the truth of things outside their immediate experience. I easily read the whole piece because the author had an amusing and acerbic turn of phrase. But really: what percentage of bankers' wives has this author met? Of that percentage, how many had 'visions' as he described? Using his own lack-of-evidence-based mode of thought, I'll speculate and bet that if you pull it all apart, there's a particular wife of a particular friend of his that irritates him, possibly because she has strong opinions about things and talks over him at dinner parties. He's left to glare critically at her decor, which was actually designed by her husband but he forgot that little detail because doesn't the wife always do the home design? He then thinks about how when he was young, he would have had the energy to really give her some zinger quips that would shut her up--this leads to nostalgic thoughts about how London used to be--hence this article.

I felt snarky writing that. What if instead he's an amazing feminist? He had a bad day and wrote something he later regretted. Or as he wrote it, he felt a deep depression because a part of him knew he was writing about himself, projecting his own life experience onto the canvas of London's history? I have no clue. Nor does he about what he's writing.
posted by lemmsjid at 10:44 AM on April 10 [14 favorites]


I don't think there isn't a place for this kind of writing. Does a person who has been oppressed need to do a whole sociological survey in order to get printed? No. What I object to is the dehumanization and lack of empathy in the piece. The arch panoptic ability of the author to gaze into the homes of entire groups of people, ignore the subtlety and depth of their experience, and expound on their--in this case--artistic poverty.
posted by lemmsjid at 10:50 AM on April 10


lemmsjid - maybe it's because people who are complaining about how cities are pricing out the people suffering from real poverty get dismissed as being "wistfully yearning for years when crime was rampant because it gave the city an 'edge'."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:59 AM on April 10


lemmsjid: In London, its officially ok to generalise as much as you like about investment bankers, and has been since at least the 90s. They are a self-identified group with a very clear ethos - people don't join that group by accident. Nobody really defends them, except maybe Boris, and they don't need anyone to defend them because they are running the whole show.
posted by memebake at 11:07 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, that's what disturbs me about this rhetoric. When one broad brush is used, then it legitimizes another broad brush. It's harder to say such things to an article that actually describes how zoning laws, franchise placement, property taxes, rising rents, etc. actually push people out of a region.
posted by lemmsjid at 11:08 AM on April 10


EmpressCallipygos, that's what disturbs me about this rhetoric. When one broad brush is used, then it legitimizes another broad brush. It's harder to say such things to an article that actually describes how zoning laws, franchise placement, property taxes, rising rents, etc. actually push people out of a region.

Yes, but that's what the dusty back pages of the Utne Reader are for.
posted by Diablevert at 11:27 AM on April 10


He could have written this about San Francisco. Up thread, someone mentioned its relevance to Manhattan. I do agree somewhat with lemmsjed, but I can see where someone who is really angry about the change he sees happening to the place he calls home and feels powerless to do anything about it.

There is something about the power of financial wealth that, if not wielded with care and empathy, will make those who are negatively impacted by said wealth want to rise up in righteous anger and topple anyone or any institution who they think responsible.

I happen to know quite a few very wealthy persons (I don't share that distinction, which is fine with me); they're mostly good people. That said, there are sufficient numbers of jerks within the class of wealthy persons (as in any class) to wreak havoc far disproportionate to their absolute numbers.

All that said, I can understand the very palpable anger embedded in the piece. And, I agree that a positive result (presented by the author) is that London going all wealthy will spur development of, and out-migration to, other places in the UK that have enormous potential. I've been thinking the very same thing about San Francisco and the US, in general, lately.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:04 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


If the city belongs to the wealthy, and the wealthy have more and more of the money, then where do the places with enormous potential get the money to develop themselves?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:25 PM on April 10


I do get a sense that a lot of last generation's "cool cities" (SF, New York, London) did have a sweet spot between (crime, punks, angry young men, bohemians) and (the rich kids bought everything) where crime was down, the artists remained, and there was just enough money coming in to make the city exciting.

On this side of the world the buzz is all about Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul, and Shanghai.
posted by kanewai at 12:27 PM on April 10


If the city belongs to the wealthy, and the wealthy have more and more of the money, then where do the places with enormous potential get the money to develop themselves?

I guess a better way to phrase this question is: If people with lots of money are more and more concentrated in one city, and the money is more and more concentrated in their hands, then where does any other place get the money to adequately develop itself as more and more people are priced out of the one city?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:35 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Bah. Dundee is where it's at!
posted by orrnyereg at 2:47 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I happen to know quite a few very wealthy persons (I don't share that distinction, which is fine with me); they're mostly good people. That said, there are sufficient numbers of jerks within the class of wealthy persons (as in any class) to wreak havoc far disproportionate to their absolute numbers.

Hence, I would suggest, the relevance of class analysis.

It doesn't much matter if people are individually good, if a large mass of them predictably acts in a harmful way.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:13 AM on April 11


I have no clue. Nor does he about what he's writing.

I completely agree that the line about bankers' wives and their visions is needlessly mean, with more than a little lurking misogyny.

However, this article also has a lot of truth to it. House prices in London have rocketed up. His comment about mansions being "bitcoins for oligarchs" is certainly true. I have many friends in more creative but less well paid sectors than finance who have been driven out to the regions. That will inevitably have an effect on the city's culture. It isn't hard to see why the article has struck a chord with many people.

London is very big, which is why it has been able to survive this kind of thing in the past. As others have said, there has always been another grotty area that can be developed. But that can't go on forever, even somewhere as large as London. Put crudely, there are only so many places where young white middle class people can displace poor and largely black populations. The city also needs a certain number of poor people to do rubbish jobs, and where are they going to go if rents go up too high?

This feels like a classic ponzi scheme, in the Minsky sense: people are buying properties to speculate on the increase in value of the property and that is creating a bubble. And bubbles always burst.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:20 AM on April 11


go to Canary Wharf at lunchtime and its mind boggling just how many wealthy people there are doing and wearing and buying the same things. Stay till 6pm and you can enjoy seeing lots of high income professionals wedge themselves onto jubilee line trains like sardines.

If you're still travelling by Tube, you ain't rich.
posted by Paul Slade at 8:34 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


I suspect the Killer in question is in fact "The City of London" which is not the greater city, but the "financial city" at the core. Soulless thing it is.
posted by NiteMayr at 9:59 AM on April 11


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