An Opinion – The Problem With Shiny Shopping Centres

There is a new shopping centre just opened in Leeds, where I live, called the Trinity Centre. It has been in progress for a very long time. One of it’s entrances is on Briggate, which until now has been Leeds’ main and perfectly adequate High Street. In this blog post I am going to air my views on this new shopping centre and also our habits on spending our money on the High Street, elaborating on a brief ranty Facebook status I posted earlier today..

So I went to visit the Trinity Centre yesterday, and all I can say is that it’s pretty soulless, clinical, and not very groundbreaking.

From what I could see, there were only a handful of independent shops, maybe four, tops.. and some of them were ‘pop-ups’. Independent businesses are what make each town or city different and they inject personality to town centres and high streets. Because of this they are very important to the identity of a place. It is disappointing to see that developers of these huge shopping centres cannot see this simple fact. Apparently smaller businesses were offered rent free periods to encourage them to take up spaces in the Trinity Centre, which is a great idea in principle.. but what happens when the rent free period runs out and they can’t afford the astronomical rent like Primark and Next can because these shopping centres with huge chains encourage people to think that they should only be spending their money on brands, and huge corporations?

I am sick and tired of seeing shop after shop of the same thing. I am not against High Street shops, I sometimes buy basics from H&M, food from Yo Sushi, etc.. but does Leeds really need two Primarks, two H&Ms, two large cinemas and a tonne of empty units on the street where brands have moved into the shiny new shopping centre? I think not. I believe shoppers are perfectly able to walk a few extra metres to get to the original Primark. If we are not careful, we will create a town centre with what I call the ‘Starbucks’ problem.. multiple carbon copies of stores along each street!

I understand these stores create much needed jobs (but with a majority of the stores just moving from the high street I have to wonder just how many jobs it has actually ‘created’) and I am glad that people who were looking for work now have steady incomes, but I have to wonder how many of these people would prefer to work for themselves, or in a different line of work entirely? Offering jobs doesn’t mean they’ve sorted peoples lives out, it’ll probably mean they will work themselves to misery in a huge chain store where their individual needs and personalities don’t really matter, maybe for decades.

It’s up to shoppers and normal everyday people to change the way the High Street works, and i’m disappointed that the general population are veering towards these big shiny stores because they think it’s progress. It is not progress… Progression would be realising the brainwashing abilities of these big brands and instead choosing to support businesses run by families, individuals, craftspeople.. vote with your feet people! If spending our money on products and services from independent traders becomes normal, we may encourage those who are longing to start a business, create a product or offer a service to do just that! It is hard to see the positives in starting your own business when you have to constantly and rather dishearteningly observe a society who will gladly ignore the little businesses.

Why is it the ‘norm’ to pay pennies for something we know will fall apart after we’ve washed it a few times, or eat food we know has arrived pre prepared in a truck from who-knows-where? It strikes me as far more ‘normal’ to pay a decent price for something that will last me forever, or eat food prepared fresh and pay a fair price for it, all the while knowing my money is going directly to the people that have actually earned it and not to a boardroom of decision makers with no connection to the average shopper, or you know.. that PERSON, whose hard earned money is being spent, which by the way, is YOU.. 

In conclusion, I don’t hate Trinity… I hate the way it’s been done, and I hate the way people have glorified it.. but most of all I hate what places like Trinity are doing to hard-working, independent businesses. 

A lot of people will disagree with me, and that’s okay.. I might be wrong about some things, but these are my opinions right now.

Kate x

Sometimes I Think Things: The ‘P’ Word

Occasionally, I like to write serious things.. that are maybe a little bit challenging, funny, thought provoking etc (or maybe I THINK they are!) 

I thought I would share this article I wrote a while back as it is about being yourself, both in personality and style. It’s just a short one, it’s not fancy!

I originally wrote this piece for the zine I co-edit with my good friend Charli of Ruby Valentine. Our zine is called ‘Slimeball’ and is totally free. We explore monthly themes through creativity and regularly accept submissions from others. We love seeing how everyone else interprets the themes! 

If you would like any current/ back issues of Slimeball or if you would like to submit work please get in touch with us via our facebook page!

Here’s my article: The ‘P’ Word

The dreaded four words of my teenage years, the sentence which often solidified feelings of being misunderstood.

IT’S JUST A ‘PHASE’.

It’s the kind of comment that’s made by a parent in front of family friends at some kind of awkwardly enforced get-together, a comment which serves more to make the parent feel better than to actually explain anything. During my teens this little gem was whipped out to laugh away various risky subjects such as whichever bright colour I had chosen to dye my hair that week, why I insisted on wearing neon trousers or why I was being a complete bitch to my little brother.

I always felt like the ‘phase’ bomb was a way of making excuses for what I now know just to be teenage curiosity. Parents eager to tell the world I wouldn’t be like this forever.. it’s a temporary thing, i’m not a delinquent just yet.

Whenever ‘It’s Just A Phase’ was used, It would only serve to make me more determined to be that way forever, just to show them. Often I would verbally respond ‘We’ll see about that’ and argue that it would last. I wanted to be forever the rebel girl, with my ripped fishnets, terrible punk band, green hair and sulky face.

When I hit my twenties, I realised somewhere along the lines my aesthetic didn’t fit. I had morphed for years, moving organically from the 70’s tribute punk, to a less high maintenance punk look, to a jeans and t-shirt student, then a faux rockabilly style influenced only by a desire to be ‘cool’ before finally settling into this very eclectic mix of 1960’s vintage and ridiculous Harajuku inspired fashion, which is totally cool with me.

In that moment of realisation I also felt a swell of pride. Sure, the way I look might have changed, but my pride came from knowing that really… none of it was a ‘phase’. It was all me, It IS all me,and I still FEEL the same, I’d still describe myself as a rebellious individual, someone who challenges life, expectations and confines. I am still determined to ‘show them’, whoever ‘they’ present themselves to be.

What outwardly may be seen as others as a ‘phase’, I believe was integral to shaping me as a person. I look back and think, ‘But it was only my appearance’. I become genuinely baffled by the ‘phase’ excuse and why it even needed to be said. If a young person doesn’t experiment, or experience, or express then what kind of person will they grown into? And why are some appearances seen as ‘the norm’ while others have to be explained away with the P-word? Would it not be healthier to encourage transitions between styles, subcultures and interests instead of pigeon-holing everything into a ‘phase’ just for five minutes of a vague, self indulgent but totally imaginary, ‘grown up’ feeling?

Because finally, and this is another epiphany I have had in my twenties, let’s face it. Nobody ‘grows up’. We just get taller, sometimes fatter, and maybe a little better informed. Inside we are the same being as that teenager who was eternally jumping from one thing to another. That continuity of our personality and self is why really, there were never any ‘phases’.

© Kate Rosanne Johnson 2012

 

Kate xx