Monday, 1 February 2010

Say hello to the Yes men

Apparently, the first step to breathing new life into the entire economic, social and environmental fabric of a big chunk of London is to spend thousands of pounds hoisting up banners on lampposts that simply proclaim the word 'Yes'. 

The logic of this idea seems to be that thousands of people flocking to Holborn, Bloomsbury and St.Giles everyday will inhale this simple, catchy 'positive thought', be inspired to work thrice as hard and somehow conjure new businesses into being from scratch that will exhale millions of pounds of fresh turnover into London's asthmatic economy.

This appears to be the strategy of inholborn, a 'business improvement district' agency, supported by our beloved Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, that aims to invigorate the fortunes of Bloomsbury, Holborn and St.Giles, three neighbouring yet historically distinctive parts of central London. inholborn's orange 'Yes' banners flap over passing pedestrians around the junction of Kingsway and High Holborn. 'Yes' also covers one side  of an information booth that greets passengers as they come out of Holborn tube station (above). Few people will notice it, as it's on the booth's back side.

To be fair, the strategy boasts a bit more than just an Orwellian 'Yes'. Peer at the small print on each banner. It says, 'Bloomsbury. Holborn. St.Giles. Midtown.' You'd be forgiven for asking, what and where is 'Midtown'? 

inholborn work with another body calling themselves the Midtown Business Club. Their light bulb moment is to re-brand Bloomsbury, Holborn and St.Giles with the bland Americanism, Midtown, because these three London neighbourhoods sits in the middle between London's financial centre, the City of London, and the capital's nightlife hub, the West End. I wonder how long they took to come up with that gem.

Will Boris support this re-branding elsewhere in London? Will Trafalgar Square become Central City? Could Elephant & Castle be re-branded as South Central? What about Regent's Park becoming Mega Park West? It seems strange that marketing people want bits of London to sound more like slices of New York when many New Yorkers enjoy living in Big Apple neighbourhoods named after bits of London - for instance, Greenwich Village and Soho.

Bloomsbury includes the British Museum, the University of London and the caf├ęs and galleries of Museum Street (above). The Bloomsbury title itself originates from the 13th Century when the area's fields, woods and vineyards became known as 'Blemondisberi', the 'bury' or manor of William Blemond.

I haven't heard anyone on Museum Street shouting excitedly about becoming 'Midtowners'. So will the people who live and work in St.Giles, Holborn and in Blemond's Land take 'Midtown' to their hearts and allow WC1 to become MT1? Or will they utter a resounding 'no' and urge Boris, our beloved Mayor, to shove the orange Yes men down the Pipe?*

* Slang for the Blackwall Tunnel that allows the A102 road to run beneath the River Thames.

Bloomsbury's nooks and crannies will be the subject of future postings.

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Midtown? Not unless it has the heart and soul of Motown!! Say Yes? I say 'leave it be'. We are Londoners, not New Yorkers!!

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