The Answer Is “Good Grief, I hope not!”.

I have just finished reading Joel Bakan’s The Corporation (but have yet to sit down to the DVD). He his a law professor and his thesis is that Corporations are legally required to only act in the best interests of their shareholders, thus they are by definition pathological entities and any act of Corporate Social Responsibility can only be legal if ultimately serves the direct financial interests of the shareholders.

So this, along with the fact that I find shopping a chore and loath shopping centres, was the context in which I found myself yesterday, sitting in a mini-conference organised by Audiences Central provocatively titled Are Shopping Centres The New Arts Centres?. After presentations about how valuable Art is for giving City Centres added value for consumers and added ‘footfall’ for shopping centres; having seen a range of examples of art made in, around and for shopping centres; it started to become clear than no one was actually going to answer the question. So it fell to me to say something along the lines of “Good Grief, I hope not!”.

It’s great that Foursight’s Cornershop was such a triumph in its shopping centre location. I am delighted to hear such good things about Theatre Absolute‘s unit in Coventry. I remember with fondness Friction Art’s Curio City Shop and wish Created in Birmingham’s forthcoming shop well I even admit that we are shortly to announce an edition of our own Steps Series that is to be installed in a shopping centre, but let’s not loose sight of the fact that we are there to increase retailer’s profits and the moment we stop fulfilling that function we’ll be out. The moment those units can be let out for a proper rent we’ll be out. The moment we do anything that ‘reflects badly’ on the people who are ultimately our ‘hosts’, then we are out of there. Beware I say… we’re supping with the very devil.

As other points of information:

There is a proposal that buskers in Birmingham City Centre will soon have to be licensed and to be licensed you’d have to pass an audition. We were reassured those rejected would be “given help to improve”. I asked if that meant the City Centre Partnership were offering free music lessons, but my question (admittedly it was more of a heckle) was ignored.

Birmingham’s New Park which is to sweep along outside Millennium Point will apparently not come under control of the cities parks department but instead the City Centre management. So it sounds to me that it will be less a park than another aid to retail success.

Now where did I put my Kath Kidston red flag and where’s my B&Q made barricade?


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