Culture of Capital v. Capital of Culture

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

4 January 2015


Long-suffering readers of this blog will know that: (a) we like real books not e-books; (b) we think that “small is beautiful”; and (c) we are opposed hook, line and sinker to the market economy.

However, given that the world we live in is not (yet) perfect, if forced to choose between small local businesses and giant corporations, we tend to favour – in theory at least and after assessing each case on its merits – the small man or woman.

Last month Michele Hanson, a contributor to the London Guardian, used her article to highlight a case in point.

This is the essence of what she wrote in the print edition of the paper on 9 December:

“Fielding [Hanson’s friend, real or imaginary] was limping along the canal tow-path last week to visit his favourite boat, the floating bookshop Word on the Water. It is stuffed with reasonably priced books. His favourite music drifts out. Poetry and live acoustic music performances are staged on its roof. Fabulous. He often shops there. But probably not for much longer.  Our rivers and canals are getting a bit crowded. Now that there’s barely an affordable shack to live in on land, people are taking to the water.”

However, according to Hanson, the Canal and Riverside Trust (CaRT), which manages London’s waterways, is tightening things up.

“Costs are rising and at some moorings you can now only stay for seven days, which is tricky for a bookshop, and after three years of cruising, the owners were struggling, so they asked if they could stay permanently in the Paddington Basin (in inner London).

“CaRT invited them to hand in a bid and proposal for a trading mooring. They’d be up against other small businesses, thought Jon Privett, co-owner of Word on the Water.


“Guess who won? Another gigantic corporation – British Land.”

According to the article, British Land owns 32.8 million sq ft and £12 billion of property, including most of the Paddington Central mega-development.

Says Hanson:

“They plan to have a floating coffee shop. To go with the other 13 coffee shops in the area.”

“Fielding is enraged. ‘I don’t want more sodding coffee. I want books. Yet again, something I like is being taken away. Is there no bloody legal apparatus to deal with this sort of thing? A man selling books on a boat, people love it, along comes a mega-rich toad …’

Hanson comments:

“No wonder Privett is worried that the culture of capital is going to ruin our capital of culture. At this rate, all the charming, unusual, modest little enterprises…will be soon snuffed out by giants.”

The article does not give any comment from British Land.


Says it all, really. Not much one can add except perhaps “And so say all of us!”

All the same, it would have been interesting to hear what British Land thinks. Though we can guess.


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.







This entry was posted in Economics, Globalisation, Literature, UK and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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