'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Tsemiotic Tsunami

Walking up Kendal high street in search of The Mint Bar the other night, something suddenly became obvious to us: Kendal is a town almost completely devoid of distinguishing characteristics. Like much of the plutocratic retirement home that is the South Lakes the town's full of the same shops and businesses that you encounter in any other small town in England. Hamburger bars, clothes shops, hairdressers & restaurants: round up the usual suspects. A great tsunami of international brands has washed away whatever local businesses once occupied the high street.
But as you travel north you reach the highwatermark of this wave around Dunmail Raise: Ambleside is heaving with outdoor brands; Keswick has more anorak shops than strictly decent, but the signs and hoardings are mostly local. In sharp contrast Cockermouth and Penrith are towns of authenticity, where local businesses, small shops and individual cafes and restaurants thrive well above the reach of retail-semiotic inundation. The inhabitants of north Cumbria, this other Eden, had better make the most of it: I'd give it 5 years before the tide rises . . .


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