On Thursday March 26, at around 9am, Neal’s Yard gets filled up with balloons.
Completely filled, for people to walk through and be filmed by some very nice, artistically inclined guys from a small film company. Come along, it’s going to be lots of fun! Well at least that was the idea . . .
Camden has been keen to support this funky idea and did not hesitate to provide the filming licence. Neal’s Yard, one of the most alternative, green and playful places in Central London seemed the ideal location.
Because I live and work in Neal’s Yard, have done so for many years, and care deeply about its character, I felt motivated to look into the project a little further. A different picture emerged: the carpet of reddish balloons on the computer screen application turns out to be brown. Is this some special art project I wondered? More curious now, I managed to get more information about the motivation behind the whole event: the balloons are representing the bubbles in an Aero chocolate bar. I’m a bit of a chocophile myself, but I do happen to know that Aero is produced by Nestle and that is where I draw the line. We now have a situation where a small, creative, people-friendly, green and health-promoting place is being used by a huge corporation to promote its dubious wares.
The dilemma is how can I tell these nice, well-meaning people who are making the film that this is ludicrous?! I don’t want them to lose their job. They do their best and are trying to be as creative as possible within the limits of economic survival. It brings up an important question: “Can creative and artistic endeavours flourish in this day and age without commercial sponsors?”
Looking at how Covent Garden has changed in the last 20 years, it is obvious that what attracted the big commercial enterprises is exactly what they are killing by the way they are moving in. Neal Street is a prime example of how all the interesting, specialist and small-scale shops have been pushed out and replaced by chain stores that have little more to offer than the average shopping mall. Covent Garden used to be an artistic, creative place with many original features. Where is this going or even where has this gone?
Do we need the commercial input of companies to enable us to be artful in our living environments? Can we be independent and not compromise our creativity for commercial promotion? How do we want to shape the environments we live in and what qualities are important to cherish in Central London, Covent Garden and a place like Neal’s Yard? You can add your views and comments in the comments box below.
The least we can do when corporate interests appear on our doorstep disguised as funky ideas is to be vigilant, critical and continue to ask the questions. In this changing climate it the questions that we ask now that open up the the possible routes for us to follow in times to come.