Friday, December 6, 2013

The rush to gush

City Life, the propaganda sheet of Newcastle City Council has come through my letterbox. Like the last one I read – last year? – this is an exemplar of telling the plebs what is good for them.

Newcastle, I was once told long ago, is a city ruled by three forces: Newcastle University, Newcastle United Football Club (NUFC) and Newcastle & Scottish Breweries. Together they got what they wanted. By an almost invisible process plans were made and 'sprung' fully fledged on the punters. Something like this still goes on.

Today these schemes are 'rolled out'. Local media play their part. The infamous attempt to turn Leazes Park (Common Land!) into a subsidiary of Newcastle United Football Club (then owned by Sir John 'MetroCentre' Hall) was planned in stealth and great detail away from the Council offices and appeared overnight with a great splash in the press and a bandwagon primed to recite the words of a script as if this were not the North East, but North Korea.

Other examples of this practise come to mind. Grainger Market was written off (using exactly the same phrases intriguingly) by the Council, Newcastle Evening Chronicle and B.B.C. North East. Grainger Market survives in part due to the fact that the economy would not support the 're-vitalisation' (it ran out of cash) and the rather obvious fact that Grainger Market was not, after all, Covent Garden. Newcastle City Council reminds me of a remark ascribed to Bertolt Brecht when East Germany's 'leadership' felt the populace had let them down: Perhaps the City Council ought to elect a different constituency.

Reading City Life is a bore. It's what they don't tell you that grates. The tone of uplift would make a motivational charlatan blush.

Having manipulated it's 'Awae the Lads' (NUFC's loyal fans) credentials with complete cynicism, Scottish & Newcastle Breweries sold themselves overnight to a multinational who promptly took the brand names and closed the plant down. Hence this:

The large exposed area in the image above is the old brewery site, currently being open cast mined to remove coal before building in ernest begins; excepting it might not. It seems the scheme is being cut back. Nothing has been said but by simply comparing previous statements and plans with what is spoken of now, the differences are obvious. Ambition has a nasty way of colliding with reality like that. So, now there will be some gaps. Parkland may be the answer. Temporary open spaces planted up with flower beds and shrubs. It seems a long way from the fanfare of high tech hyperbole that covered over the loss of an emblematic north east brand and many jobs with it.

Personally, I would welcome this revision. The views over Newcastle from this vantage point are the best I have ever seen short of being in an aircraft. Let's face it, the architecture planned for this dramatic site, a once in a century opportunity to create something worthy of a great historic city, was always going to loose out compared to a tree.

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