London is in in danger of hitting a cultural dead-end…


Carnaby Street, London, c.1966

From The Guardian:

Money, money, money. The city London ought to be – turbulent, chaotic, fantastically creative, brimming with a sense of freedom – is under threat. The capital is in danger of hitting a cultural dead-end. Much the same thing has happened in Manhattan; you also get a sense of it in Berlin – though the absence of a financial centre in that city means bohemia is not nearly as squeezed – and Paris. It may yet amount to the evolution of the archetypal western city, away from the idea of a thriving metropolis and refuge-cum-outlet for talent that might founder elsewhere, towards something closed-off, and devoted largely to the most cold and clinical of human activities.

From the 1960s onwards, the legend of Swinging London, which still partly defines the way the city is seen, was traceable to the coming-together of working-class talent and loose-living bohemia – precisely the elements that are now in danger of being chased out of the centre of central London altogether. From the mods, through the punks and on to the New Romantics and creators of what was eventually called Cool Britannia, these people pioneered the subcultures that ensured so many of us were gripped by the London-obsessed mentality Julie Burchill memorably called capitalism. They also ensured that politicians would end up paying tribute to British fashion, music and drama, and then counting the tax take.

Ironically enough, their story also sits at the heart of why people who have more money than sense are buying up the most romanticised areas of town. But at this rate, the new arrivals will emerge from their urban condos, and realise they have been chasing ghosts.

“A lament for the death of bohemian London”, John Harris, The Guardian