2013, Chichester

Disgruntled Of Chichester


The title of this post sums it up really. Unfortunately, there possibly won’t be any photos to accompany this post. Unless I find the ones I’m looking for and I convince myself that I’m not doing anything libellous.

Few things irk me more than it should. Car alarms going off every thirty seconds when it is actually parked outside my bakery and I have to listen to it for what feels like hours. Every single time, I have to stop myself from unleashing my mighty artistic skills with a bold Sharpie pen on their windscreen.
People sitting on the top of the backrest of park benches. Just why? How can that possibly be any more comfortable than sitting down properly?
People who drive big urban 4×4 fuel guzzling tanks when the only trip they do is from their town house to Waitrose.

I appreciate I am being somewhat excessive.

And then, there are the ones that justifiably piss me off. Let me paint you a picture, but before that some sort of background. A few months ago, Chichester rested its elbows on the dining table and somehow took a chill pill. The good council of Chichester allowed for the Chichester Street Art to happen.
Being a Conservative, traditional Cathedral City, it did not put up any protest against this public display of artistic expression. Artists from all over the would came into the city and with the permission of the landlords, installed works of arts on blank building walls. I thought it was amazing. The residents of Chichester that I have come across absolutely love it and the #Chichester Twitter feed was alive and buzzing about this event.

Being fortunate enough to own the building that the bakery is in, we granted Samo, a Petersfield based artist/tattooist to paint the brick wall on the side of the bakery’s building.

Here it is finished.

20130806-215822.jpg

And here is a cool shot taken by Nadia Stephens Photography.

20130806-215900.jpg

The response to it was immense. We had great feedback both on Twitter and also on Facebook, and in actual real life, people were coming over to see it in person.

Fast forward a few weeks, a gentleman on a bicycle complete with his trousers bicycle clips, walked into the bakery and without introducing himself, asked if we had given permission for the wall to the painted.

Yes.

Is it on of the official list of street art festival?

No.

Oh, said he.

I’m sorry. Just who are you and what is our interest in this?

Apparently he’s from conservation. Notice how I wasn’t even afforded the courtesy of a name or a full title of the organisation that he was representing. Apparently ‘they’ were concerned about the increased amount of street art that has been popping up recently.

And your issue with this particular painting?

Apparently it wasn’t very nice. The paint runs looked untidy. Oh yes, never mind that is the style of the artist. “I don’t like it”, he said.

Resisting the temptation to follow him home and tell him how I detested the way his garden grew, I politely informed him that it is a matter of opinion and that everyone else I’ve spoken to liked it.

He tried to ask me if I had sought the Council’s permission to put the painting up and looked rather crestfallen when I pointed out a fact that he obviously had already known – that just like the street art installations, no permission was needed from the council and that it only required the approval of the landlord.

It was when he asked when the painting was going to be taken down and me replying When it washes off that I think he realised that I was a lost cause and communication should cease promptly.

And I don’t understand this attitude. The need to preserve a great city exactly like its one dimensional postcard image. Stagnant, devoid of activity and a mere snapshot for passing visitors. The council grovelling for visitors to come visit and spend their money in the city and at the same in, driving its residents out of town to spend their money there. The same attitude that fuelled the bewildering Council decision to want to plough 70K into refitting a shop dedicated for local produces to be run by a local business which somehow will need to be able to pay the extortionate rent and business rates of in excess of 60K a year. You’re going to have to sell a hell of an amount of jams to make that amount.
And don’t even get me started on how they managed to massacre the Butter Market on North Street. That Council funded 70K could have gone a LONG way to rejuvenate the Butter Market and preserve its use for small independent shops.

How did this viewpoint:

We’re very aware that Chichester has seen a number of redevelopments in recent years, which have often left nothing more of the original buildings than a shell or exterior façade. That is not what we want for the Butter market.

And this:

We believe a more ethical and flexible approach to retail business is required; an approach that echoes the original purpose of the Butter Market in serving the needs of the consumers and producers of Chichester, rather than one which regards an historic building as simply an attractive shell for the ubiquitous modern retail mall.

And this:

Our vision is to see a return of the “toll” model originally used in the Butter Market. This will ensure that the consumer and producer are not used as a simple margin to be exploited in the retail environment. The toll model is a simple and fair way of bringing produce to market because charges to the producer are based on profits, which ensures that the producer retains a sustainable margin while the consumer pays a sustainable cost. In other words, producers benefit, consumers benefit, and Chichester benefits.

http://www.chichesterbuttermarket.co.uk/vision.php?menu=benefit#benefiting_chichester

Become this?

It is already recognised as a renowned retailing centre and there is now an opportunity to take retailing to a new level with the conversion of the historic Butter Market into a top end shopping experience.
Distinguished brands and luxury goods retailers will have an opportunity to connect with the inherent prosperity and wealth created by centuries of commerce in and around this flourishing Cathedral City.
The Butter Market aspires to become the benchmark in the retail environment for bespoke and distinctive retailers.

http://www.buttermarketchichester.co.uk/

So, we sit and watch historical buildings like this butchered. The Butter Market was apparently 200 years in the making and it was destroyed in an instance by greed. We hear of yet more independent shops closing down due to extortionate business rates, and yet, it appears to be the main bugbear of the Council is the growing number of A boards on the high street.

Seriously

Some people just need to get over themselves.

I have one proposition. The people who make decisions about the city centre will need to be actually living in the city centre.

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21 thoughts on “Disgruntled Of Chichester

  1. Tanya says:

    I am with you on the butter Market. A butchery. Elodie was trying to get Geoff to draw her a picture of the “mummy humming bird” today. Fan number 1!!

  2. This is a fantastic post. Eloquent and justified in every sense of the word. I also live in a conservative city when it comes to street art, festivals, anything remotely interesting… but then monstrous buildings, shopping malls and everything in the category of ‘revenue raising’ is approved with no problem. I could talk about this for hours, but… just know that I feel you sister! I love Samo’s art. Glad that the ‘conservation’ gentleman was justly shut down in his weak argument! xx

    • Well, it has been pointed out to me that it might not be the end of it yet as apparently it only takes one person to complain for the council to start making a noise about it. I will await with great anticipation.

  3. Chichester Resident says:

    My own person opinion of the street art is, I think it hideous and my younger sister could do better (shes only 8). There are a couple of piece that do look like nice like the birds in the nest.
    I would completely agree with you about the town center and butter market. They have butchered it and killed all the local independent firms, Its now all top brand store and food outlets that i certainly can’t afford to shop at. I use to spend hours up in the town aimlessly wondering the shops, picking up little bargains and goodies with my friends most weekends. Now I’m lucky to go up into the town once a month and spend minimal time there when i do. I couldn’t honestly tell you what we have in the town center anymore and I live all of 5-10mins walk away.
    One of biggest bug bears of Chichester is all the money they poured into the City Gate complex, and all the hype on how great it was going to be and amusement and activities you would find there, for now half the units to sit there empty and with the other half that is actually occupied, 80% of that is food and drink outlets and 20% is actual entertainment. You can really spend a day down there can’t you………

    • I’m so pleased you mentioned City Gate Complex! What a fiasco that is. That massive grey wall that runs along the side where the main entrance to CineWorld. Just concrete barren land. They could’ve utilised the area more efficiently, little lock-up style stalls and a little bit more greenery would be nice, and maybe events like regular street food markets.

      Totally appreciate that you don’t like the street art and you know what, you are welcome to that opinion as it is you right to have it as an individual. However, if say, you were representing an official organisation, I would expect a little bit more justification that just “we don’t like it as it’s not very nice”.

      I think what gets to me is the duplicity(?) or maybe I mean, hypocrisy, or even worse snobbery that is often involved in all this.

      I’m punting for a street party. What say you? Good way to meet neighbours, nothing like sharing food to make you discover that you have more in common with your neighbours than you do not in common.

  4. Know what you mean in a lot of cases I was born in Chichester more decades ago than I care to remember and while some protests by people like ‘conversation’ or organisations like the Chichester Society (do they still exist) have been to the benefit of the city, many of them have not. While regrettably we cannot do anything where buildings are owned by private businesses and have to hope that the planners show some common sense, the Buttermarket changes still rankle with me. I had my first holiday job in one of the little units run by Frank Emanuel Jewellers in the mid 60’s, and the atmosphere was great, with all the hustle and bustle of the small businesses and their customers, a real community. Now I feel I need to dress up to even go through the portals of the building and don’t set foot in there now.

    We will always have voices that disagree, but that is healthy, just wish more Cicestrians (people born here) or those who have lived here for along time would stand up and be counted on some issues. Don’t get me started on the ‘there is nothing for teenagers to do’ argument. Teenagers have been saying that since I was one – had to entertain myself and although I vowed never to sound like my mother she has just made that last statement 🙂

    Chichester is not any other city (its not a town) but is rapidly being changed so that its main shopping areas are being inhabited by national businesses because smaller businesses cannot afford premises, that is where the Butter Market fitted and where it should be now, not holding out a lot of hope it can be changed but wouldn’t it be nice to have an undercover area of lock up shops where you could browse the diversity of quality products and produce from our local area.

    Keep up the good work with your blog.

  5. Laura Cartledge says:

    Yes!!
    To all of this and more. Like Little London, on the brink of being a shell which only big-brand hermit crabs will be able to afford. Clawing away more of the identity, the personality, the individuality which make a place what it is.
    While the places we want to see and visit are pushed further away from the centre of town, and us, as visitors, residents and most importantly I suppose – spenders – go with them.
    I feel like the Buttermarket is still a shell, despite it now being full.
    While the street art festival made me prouder to be a part of this city than I ever have been.
    It gave it some life back, took the breath away and made those that saw, and got it, puff out our chests, hold our heads high and smile.
    The “conservation” is a weird phrase and a misguided aim.
    It makes me think along the lines of taxidermy and Chichester is at risk of being like a dodo, stuffed and propped up but with no light behind the eyes.
    I think we all have a responsibility to stop this happening, rub our hands together (like a defibrillator) and get the spark back.
    But we can’t do it alone. The powers that be need to make it possible instead of coming up with expensive and unrealistic “schemes.”
    I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the produce shop was dreamt up.
    Aida and John you give me hope in the face of all this, and if supporting you guys means getting to eat some of the best cakes in the universe you know I am on board ; )
    Phew, rant over x

  6. southcoasthr1 says:

    What a great post. I am not a Cisestrian, however, I live here and run my business in this city I now call my home. As much as it is a beautiful place to live, I am often left shocked by the overtly conservative attitudes by many of the ‘officials’ who run it. The narrow minded attitudes and failure to appreciate things that are outside the norm still leave me speechless. I also know first hand, and through my brother who also owns an independent business in Chichester, that the so called support for small local businesses is pretty non existent. The extortionate rates will eventually drive independents out of business, and our city will resemble a.n.other high street – full of chain restaurants, coffee shops (2 Costas!!) and clothing stores – simply because they have the power to negotiate rates and are so called ‘low risk’ options. We all need to stand up to these outdated attitudes and let our City evolve and accept change whilst supporting local, independent businesses.

    • When we initially approached the powers that be about opening the bakery, they were every reluctant in coming forward with any help or advice and upon initial consultation, pretty much said no to every thing we said we wanted to do, UNTIL we pointed out the number of chain owned shops in the city which are getting away with the very things that they said we couldn’t do. Independent businesses shouldn’t need to be presented with council officials who seem hell bent on withholding information from them.

      • Stuff like A1 classified retail outlets can’t sell food to be consumed in the shop (Greggs is A1 and they sell food that can be consumed in the premises), you can’t have chairs and tables outside (Greggs does), you can’t change the hanging sign even if it is to take it back to the original colour without permission but never mind the previous tenant who painted it a non-approved conservation area colour in the first place. Hmmm, what else, no they won’t give us a guideline but would prefer (although it’s not compulsory) that we write detailing what we wanted to do.

  7. As a former Cicesterian — two long spells actually — I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to the misguided conservative attitudes on conservation. It took decades to get the Pallant House Gallery built, what a palaver.
    I’ll look out for your bakery next time I’m there and look forward to seeing the ‘radical’ artwork on the wall.

  8. Rachel Lowe says:

    I think they should reduce the rates businesses have to pay to attract a wider audience. Money is not everything & the city will just be boring if left to the rich chains that can afford the ridiculously extortionate taxes rates.

  9. Chichester Resident says:

    I have lived in Chichester for a mere three years now and I find it quite alarming the number of small businesses that have closed around the city centre in that time. Having lived in various countries around the world I have seen new cities old cities and various blends in between. Chichester has an amazing history and some beautiful buildings it’s population is on average quite affluent and I see no need for the council to cow down to national branded stores with Portsmouth and Southampton a short drive or train ride away. More local and independent traders would be advantageous to the economy of the city drawing customers for goods they cannot buy in a retail park. I would like to see more street markets and more independent owner run stores with smiling faces and customer service. However I hold out little hope from a council that built the novium centre in tower st opposite some truly beautiful houses, a building that is ill fitting to its surroundings now and in twenty years will look awful and dated. On the street art however a wonderful idea bringing some light and life to the city without I feel detracting anything. Some pieces I like and others are not to my taste but hey I’m not everybody.

  10. Brian Phillips says:

    I live in the city centre and totally agree with you about the butter market. My personal opinion however is that your artwork devalues the Chichester street art project. I don’t like all of the ‘official’ artwork but I can appreciate the talent of the artists. People will naturally think your artwork is part of the official festival but I don’t think it’s up to a similar standard. This is a but unfair on the project as a whole as they are trying to build a reputation of attracting world class street artists. Did you consider being part of the project yourself?

    • Really excited that this post is generating so much communication about things going on in Chichester.
      I’ll answer one question first. You asked if we considered being part of the project ourselves and the answer is ‘yes’ albeit too late. From what I understand, details of the street art project in Chichester was kept pretty much hush hush until the very last minute and I suspect, although I can’t be sure, the landlords were approached by the project themselves. When we did finally track down the project organiser, he confirmed with us that the artists were already moving onto to the next town but he will now be bearing us in mind for next year, if it takes place again in Chichester.
      The notion that the artwork on our wall will somehow devalue the other ‘official’ street art work is an interesting one. Is that because the general consensus is that due to the artworks being part of a national project, they are therefore more valid as credible works of art?
      I think people will think what they want to think. I overheard someone exclaiming that the one on our wall was a copy of an identical one in a big city elsewhere because they saw the YouTube time lapse video of it (which is one that we did ourselves).
      If anything, the ‘official’ street art project has been liberating as far as other displays of public art. Up until the point when the project organiser itself and ChichesterBID confirmed with us that in order to put up a painting on an external wall only the permission of the landlord was required without any need for input from the Council (as a rule), there had been a lot of reluctance on the part of the authorities to specify the rules and requirements with regards to displaying artwork on external walls.
      I really hope that I’ve responded in a fair manner. The artwork is transient, and as a local independent business, we would like to continue supporting local artists, and promote the notion that credible works of art need not come under the banner of officialdom in order for it to be valid.
      I have a question for you, though, what say you about a street party? I think it would be a blast.
      Xxx

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