London has always been a magnet for those in search of heavy doses of culture .Thirty odd years ago Gerardine and I moved from our native East Lancashire to London because there were more clubs, more places to buy cool clothes, more indie cinemas, more bands to see. We settled, set up our business and over the years have employed hundreds of people. In the early days of Red or Dead, we did set up a manufacturing unit in Blackburn and today we have manufacturing licencees based there including Graham & Brown and Crown Paints and later in the year we are taking a version of our Vintage Festival to my birth town, Morecambe. But there can be no questioning that most of our economic activity has taken place and benefitted London.
In the 34 years that we have been in London, we have seen the city go from the strength to strength and become arguably the world’s greatest capital city. London has continued to prosper during a downturn that has seen our home region and many others suffer terribly and London has continued to attract young people for the same reasons as it did with Gerardine and I.
However it isn’t as easy for today’s ‘migrants’. Accommodation is so expensive (we bought a 3 bedroom house in North West London for a little over £20,000 in the early 80s) and the cheap rents that allowed us to ‘have a go’ at retail (£6 per day on Camden Market and £60 a week for a shop on Neal Street, Covent Garden) just don’t exist anymore.
This article in The Guardian contains some shocking statistics and its impact radiates out through the inner and outer suburbs.
The article highlights the fact that 7000 new homes were sold in central London in 2012 and that 5000 went to overseas buyers (with 40% of these being bought by Chinese and Singaporean’s). Savills believe that 50% of these are left empty for investment (capital appreciation) or only used a couple of weeks a year.
I have always understood that this inward investment has its benefits but have questioned whether these outweigh the negatives and often wondered if we should be trialling the Australian system where developers can only sell a small proportion of their new development to overseas investors?
However, positive chap that I am, I am increasingly wondering if there is a potential silver lining in how difficult it is to move to London from a UK town today and survive and prosper in the way that Gerardine and I did? If the expense of living in London starts to put a restless, creative demographic off moving then surely some of them will start to create a lifestyle that suits them in their hometown?
Our regional towns and cities could surely benefit from a London that welcomed the international monied set at the expense of folk closer to home.
Maybe, just maybe, a generation will start to see their regional home town as a place of opportunity with affordable town centre space and in some towns housing that anyone with a ounce of determination can afford.
In the same Guardian there was a further example of £1 homes:
Stoke on Trent is following Liverpool as a town that is being forward thinking when it comes to its terrace streets that need serious rejuvenation. If you are earning £18,000 pa, don’t own a house, and agree to carry out some internal works (on top of the £42,000 that the housing association will pay to cover essential works) then for £1 you are solving one of life’s insurmountable for some of this generation .
For some it just might be worth forsaking London for?