Treading cautiously over puddles of January Manchester rain, a group of tourists from Mexico, Australia, France and Israel take turns to pose in front of Salford Lads Club, the unassuming community centre made famous by their Mancunian heroes, The Smiths. The lyrics and imagery created by the band’s lead singer, Morrissey, are forever associated with the Manchester of mid-1980s post-industrial decay; entrenched with accounts of stabbings, domestic violence and back-alley encounters in a city struggling to find new purpose following the demise of its textile and other traditional industries. Since then, the city has been bombed by the IRA and had its centre reconstructed; it has hosted a Commonwealth Games and witnessed three decades of rapid growth and regeneration. Along the way, iconic locations in The Smiths story have disappeared or morphed into a new guise: the infamous site of their second gig, the Hacienda nightclub, was torn down and a luxury apartment block raised in its … [Read more...] about This charming Manchester: is Morrissey’s city still recognisable?
Poznan city centre
The Sheffield that rolls alongside The Full Monty’s opening credits is a city of industry and clean air, hard work and culture, discotheques and football. “Thanks to steel,” the voiceover tells us, “Sheffield really is a city on the move.” These were the boom years. The rolling mills and forges employed around 90,000 of the city’s half-a-million population. In the city centre, the “Hole in the Road” (or Castle Square, as it was officially known), with its subterranean passageways, escalators and tropical aquarium, embodied a city looking towards a rosy future. But that was 1971 and the promotional film, Sheffield: City on the Move. Fast forward more than a quarter of a century, as The Full Monty does, and many of those earlier jobs have been lost. The Hole in the Road has been filled in. It’s these redundancies that underpin The Full Monty’s plot, catalysing Gaz, Horse, and the rest of the lads’ decision to, as one man … [Read more...] about Cities in culture: has Sheffield finally shaken off its Full Monty image?
From egg-shaped concert halls to skyscrapers reminiscent of big pairs of pants, China’s top cities are famously full of curious monuments to architectural ambition. But as land prices in the main metropolises have shot into the stratosphere, developers have been scrambling to buy up plots in the country’s second and third-tier cities, spawning a new generation of delirious plans in the provinces. President Xi Jinping may have issued a directive last year outlawing “oversized, xenocentric, weird” buildings, but many of these schemes were already well under way; his diktat has proved to be no obstacle to mayoral hubris yet. From Harbin “City of Music” to Dezhou “Solar Valley”, provincial capitals are branding themselves as themed enclaves of culture and industry to attract inward investment, and commissioning scores of bold buildings to match. Even where there is no demand, city bureaucrats are relentlessly selling off land for development, … [Read more...] about Put us on the map, please: China’s smaller cities go wild for starchitecture
If Only Fools and Horses is a reliable guide, and it probably isn’t, Peckham has long been a dodgy manor teeming with shifty herberts temperamentally ill-suited to following the straight and narrow. Boycie, Del Boy Trotter’s rival as Peckham’s leading entrepreneur in the BBC sitcom, once explained where the south-east London district, historically, went wrong. “Did you know, 500 years ago this was a green and peaceful area?” asked Boycie (AKA Terrance Aubrey Boyce). “The old Earl of Peckham had a castle where the Kwik-Fit exhaust centre now stands. Flaxen-haired maidens used to dance round the village maypole of an evening. And then one fateful medieval day, the Trotter clan arrived in a stolen Zephyr. Before you knew it, the flaxen-haired maiden was up the spout, the old Earl had been sold some hooky armour and someone nicked the maypole.” But John Sullivan’s beloved sitcom, which ran from 1981 to 1991 with Christmas special episodes is, … [Read more...] about Cities in culture: how today’s Peckham compares with Only Fools and Horses
In the 1980s, long before his thoughts turned to the US presidency, Bernie Sanders – then mayor of Burlington, Vermont – took it upon himself to try to decelerate the development of the Lake Champlain waterfront. Rejecting a plan to turn it into a series of luxury condominiums, Sanders also worked to preserve public housing by passing ordinances that made it harder for developers to evict tenants, and created a community land trust to allow residents to purchase their units. In addition, he supported the local Onion River Collaborative market (now City Market), instead of accepting a proposal for a large, unpopular supermarket in the centre of town. Whatever one thinks of his subsequent political career, Sanders’ efforts in Burlington remind us that the impact of – and concerns over – urban gentrification are nothing new. These days, however, gentrification is perhaps the most widely used term in any discussion about contemporary cities, and invariably … [Read more...] about Is the gentrification of cities inevitable – and inevitably bad?