I spoke with a clown at the newly opened Trinity Walk shopping centre in Wakefield (bear with me: he was an entertainer recently finished from his stint of entertaining the crowds and with whom I have worked with on several occasions) and we discussed the new complex.
“It’s a bit too posh for Wakefield,” he said.
Seeing as how he was a resident of Wakefield, he had the authority to say this. It seems the perception of Wakefield by its inhabitants, is one of a place of poverty, of an undeserving second-rater, a failed cousin of Leeds. I reserved my judgement and set off to have a look around.
Trinity Walk is one of the first developments in the country to pick up the dropped baton of redevelopment and break through the finishing line in the great race of capitalist consumerism. It has cost hundreds of millions of pounds.
I can’t help thinking that these new building developments are like new developments in television: hi-definition broadcasts, for example, are novel and impressive at first, but eventually they become the new default setting. What you are left with is what is actually delivered by the television, it is the content that matters.
As I wandered round and took in the familiar logos of high street capitalism, a sense of despair overwhelmed me. Is this all we can look forward to? The crashing, sardonic line from ‘Anarchy in the UK‘ by the Sex Pistols kept repeating in my head: “Your future dream is a shopping scheme!” There is no culture here. There is no education, no knowledge, no love or understanding. Everything that makes life worthwhile is absent here. It does not promote life, it drains it. In the equation of human happiness, shopping centres hold a negative value.
Wakefield council have missed a massive trick here. Instead of preserving what is unique and organic (like the old market hall) and thus valuable, they have gone for the one-size fits all approach of globalised capitalism and pulled down the old to replace it with the current fashionable new trend (Wakefield even built a walk-in fountain in its centre — just like every other clone town). I’ve written about this short sightedness before with the farmers’ market here.
Then as I leave the new shopping centre, a consequence makes itself apparent — the surrounding streets suddenly look drab and unkempt; the many shutters covering the old shop windows signalling the future demise of what is left of the centre. Redevelopment is like a cancer of the New: consumerism is the fashionable disease of the twenty first century. Resist it at your peril.
Who actually wanted this shopping centre? I don’t remember anyone asking me. How is it going to help the unemployed? It can only provide so many jobs and those jobs depend on others spending money (if they have any).
In a few days time, the Hepworth gallery will open, another multi-million pound redevelopment project in Wakefield. What happens in there will matter a lot more than what happens in Trinity Walk, at least in my book. It will be interesting to see if any sort of community develops. I’ve been hammering on their door for months to let Bettakultcha in. We’ll see if they recognise the punk ethic and acknowledge the locals… “God save the Queen!”