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16 SEPTEMBER 2013

Robert Peston Goes Shopping: shopping and the high street retailer

"In this new three–part BBC Two series, Robert Peston tells the colourful story of shopping in Britain since the Second World War. Using rarely seen archive and interviews with the key players of British retail, Peston explores how shopping has changed–and how it's changed us.

He tells the story behind some of our favourite high street stores, including Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's and Tesco. He explains how we fell in love with shopping, but allowed the love affair to become too passionate, so much so that many of us ended up in chronic debt. And he shows how retail is now in the grips of a revolution as it attempts to come to terms with the rise of online shopping and the fallout of the financial crisis.

In the first episode, Seduction, Robert Peston tells how shopping in Britain was transformed from a chore to be endured into our favourite pastime. In the years of austerity and rationing after the Second World War, shopping was drab. There were long queues, yet there was little to buy.

But in the economic boom of the 1950s, consumerism took off. Marks and Spencer led the way with a mix of quality, value and customer service. From America came self–service supermarkets, which changed the way we shop. Then came out–of–town superstores–one–stop shops which fed the need for convenience as car ownership and the numbers of working women rose in the 1960s.

Clever retailers learned to adapt to cater for the new markets of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties fashion boutiques: Chelsea Girl, for instance, catered for the emerging teenage market, while the career woman was served by Next.

By the 1980s, shopping had been transformed into a leisure activity–a fundamental shift confirmed by the opening of Britain's first large out–of–town shopping mall in 1986. Gateshead's MetroCentre was more than just a shopping centre–it was a leisure complex complete with restaurants, cinema, and even a fun fair. Shopping was king."

(BBC Media Centre)

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TAGS

1950s1960s1980sASOSausterityBBC Two • car ownership • click and collect • consumerismconvenience • David Sainsbury • Dixonseconomic boomfinancial crisis • George Davies • high street shops • high street stores • Jane Snowball • leisure activity • leisure complex • m-commerceMarks and Spencer • Michael Aldrich • Mrs Snowball • multi-channel retailing • Next Retail Ltd • one-stop shops • online shopping • out-of-town • out-of-town superstores • pawnbroker • payday loan lender • rationing • retail historyretail storeretailers • Robert Peston • Robert Peston Goes Shopping (2013) • Sainsburys • self-service supermarket • shoppingshopping behaviourshopping centreshopping mallsocial shopping • Stanley Kalms • superstore • Teleputer • TescoUK • working women

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
03 JULY 2012

Sense of adventure: what happened to playgrounds that give children space?

Aldo "Van Eyck believed playgrounds should challenge a child's imagination without jarring the adult's aesthetic sensibilities. His abstract, elementary forms – often manufactured out of metal tubes like modernist furniture – were meant to belong in a well–mannered streetscape. During the same period in Britain, however, we were developing a tradition of playground design that was almost diametrically opposed. The first 'junk' playgrounds emerged amid the rubble of the Blitz, and the results were far less polite. Consisting of makeshift structures cobbled together out of roof beams and detritus, they were often designed with the assistance of the children themselves. That essential character survives today in descendants such as Glamis Adventure Playground in Shadwell, east London, a riot of skew–whiff woodwork and clashing colours, and an odd hybrid of post–war austerity and postmodern assemblage.

The junk playground model was created by the Danish architect Carl Theodor Sorensen, who believed playgrounds should reflect the imagination of the child not the architect. In 1943, having observed the creative way children play in construction sites, he developed the prototype junk playground on the Emdrup housing estate in Copenhagen.

The concept was brought to Britain by Lady Allen of Hurtwood, who tested it out on the site of a bombed church in Camberwell and then built dozens of what she called 'adventure playgrounds' – the term 'junk' tended to turn local mothers into nimbys. Not only did Allen feel that ordinary playgrounds were sterile places ('it is little wonder that [children] prefer the dumps of rough wood and piles of bricks and rubbish of the bombed sites'), but she believed in the healing effects of exposing children to the urban scars of warfare. At the same time, having them take part in the post–war reconstruction effort was deemed a good way of shaping model citizens.

Essentially, all playgrounds are designed to do the same thing: to help children develop their abilities, use up excess energy and keep them off the streets. But the ideology of the adventure playground is interesting for several reasons. First, there's the notion of not restricting children to the repetitive motions of the slide or swing, because the sooner you reach the technical limits of the equipment, the sooner you have to stretch those limits – hence all those swings you see coiled around the crossbar. The adventure playground was designed to liberate the wild thing within and, by exposing children to risk, teach them personal responsibility (all forms of play are underpinned by some form of didactism, so it's worth reminding ourselves that this is also simply more fun). Just as crucially, it was intrinsic to the concept that children be involved in designing the playgrounds, dreaming up weird structures and adapting them later by tacking on extra elements. This participatory dimension, managed by volunteer play leaders, is key to the development of their creativity.

It's curious how much the ethos of the adventure playground chimes with the language of a new era of design today: a 'participatory' process, recycled materials, an adaptive product. It doesn't sound like the 1940s. But equally valuable is the zone of exception that the adventure playground represents in the city, one of improvisation and informality that, pace Van Eyck, does not blend in to a polite streetscape.

Today, there are few true adventure playgrounds left, but occasionally another is built that follows all the essential tenets, such as the Kilburn Grange Park playground in north London, designed last year by Erect Architecture and based on the ideas of local kids. Increasingly, though, 'adventure playgrounds' are produced by specialist manufacturers and merely designed to look rustic. You can't adapt them, or at least anyone who tried would be carted off. These are the products of a health and safety culture that watered down adventure playgrounds in the 1980s and 90s. There was a minor revival a few years ago, when the Labour government invested £230m in new play spaces across England, but the coalition government freed that budget up for other uses, so it was short–lived. And now, with the cuts, several adventure playgrounds, including the giant ones in Battersea and Kilburn, face losing the play workers that make such playgrounds what they are.

It's worth remembering just how cheap and yet how luxurious these spaces are. We should let kids loose on this new breed of sanitised playground, to inject a little of the old spirit in them. I hear the builder behind Kilburn Grange Park salvaged the formwork from Zaha Hadid's Olympic diving towers – that could come in handy."

(Justin McGuirk, Tuesday 3 July 2012 15.40 BST, The Guardian)

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TAGS

1940s19431980s1990sad-hocadventure playgroundAldo van EyckAlfred Trachselausterity • Battersea • bomb site • Camberwell • Carl Theodor Sorensen • challenge imagination • childhood imaginationchildren • clashing colours • coalition governmentcobbled together • construction site • CopenhagencreativityDanishDenmarkdetritus • didactic • didactism • dream up • elementary forms • Emdrup housing estate • Empress Frederick • engagement • Erect Architecture • exposure to risk • formwork • free expressionfun • Glamis Adventure Playground • healing effects • health and safety culturehybridimaginationimprovisation • informality • junkjunk playgroundjunk playgrounds • Justin McGuirk • Kilburn Grange Park • Labour governmentLady Allen of Hurtwoodlearningmakeshift • model citizen • modernismmodernist aestheticmodernist furniture • new era of design • NIMBY • open-endedopen-ended play spacesparticipatoryparticipatory processpersonal responsibilityplay • play leader • play spaces • play worker • playground • playground design • playscapespost-war • post-war reconstruction • postmodern assemblagerecycled materialsrisk-takingRobinson Crusoe • rough wood • rubbishrustic • salvaged • sanitised • scriptible spaces • Shadwell • skew-whiff • sterile placesstreetscape • Theodor Sorenson • urban scars • warfare • weird structures • Zaha Hadid

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 JUNE 2009

Phillip Blond: Rise of the red Tories

"We live in a time of crisis. In such times humans retreat to safety, and build bulwarks against the future. The financial emergency is having this effect on Britain's governing class. Labour has withdrawn to the safety of the sheltering state, and the comforts of its first income tax rise since the mid–1970s. Meanwhile, the Conservatives appear to be proposing a repeat of Thatcherite austerity in the face of economic catastrophe. But this crisis is more than an ordinary recession. It represents a disintegration of the idea of the 'market state' and makes obsolete the political consensus of the last 30 years. A fresh analysis of the ruling ideological orthodoxy is required.
...
On a deeper level, the present moment is a challenge to conservatism itself. The Conservatives are still viewed as the party of the free market, an idea that has collapsed into monopoly finance, big business and deregulated global capitalism. Tory social thinking has genuinely evolved, but the party's economic thinking is still poised between repetition and renewal. As late as August 2008 David Cameron said: 'I'm going to be as radical a social reformer as Margaret Thatcher was an economic reformer,' and that 'radical social reform is what this country needs right now.' He is right about society, but against the backdrop of collapsing markets and without a macro–economic alternative, Thatcherite economics has been wrongfooted by events."
(Phillip Blond, Prospect Magazine February 2009 issue 155)

TAGS

2009austeritycapitalismchange • civil association • conservatismConservativescrisisDavid Camerondecentralisation • financial emergency • free market economyglobal capitalismglobal financial crisisglobal financial systemLabour • late-modern • Margaret Thatcher • market state • mutualism • neoliberalism • Phillip Blond • politicspost-traditionalreformsocial change • social reform • stateTorytransformationUK • voluntary association

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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