Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

What not to Keep

Colliers Wood has long been off the map. Dwarfed by neighbouring Tooting, home, according The Evening Standard, of the singleton, and Wimbledon, home of all things good with strawberries, CW is just as the man on Channel 4's Demolition said, 'unfashionable'. And yet, while I live in CW, I feel a grudging loyalty. (Though one day I shall post a link to my article on the London bombings, where I commit acts of gross belittling... so, not much loyalty.)

Anyway, we, the residents of Colliers Wood, are suddenly famous for something. Even if that something happens to be the 9th most hideous building in the UK. And the only one that nobody could be found to say a kind word about. All the programme's editorial was concerned with the cost of knocking it down and the loss of revenue to the owner that a lower building might bring.

'Demolition' is a public-spirited programme: useful reality TV for town centres. The premiss here, a bit like What not to Wear though less immediate, is 'What to (list to) get rid of'; a fitting accompaniment to a heritage policy of listing buildings to keep. Copied from the Channel 4 website were these comments on our building with the leastest:

The Tower, Colliers Wood, South West London
Located in what is principally a little town of Victorian terraces, where few buildings are more than two storeys high, The Tower, completed in the late 1960s, is 19 storeys of offices in black concrete, glass and steel. When the local council asked residents, 86% described it as the worst thing about living in Colliers Wood.
What it doesn't tell you - and nor did the programme - is that in the 10 years that I've lived in this area, almost everything around The Tower has been pulled down and turned into airhangar-like shopping outlets. That includes a deliciously eccentric water tower that used to rise behind the local church and lend class to the neighbourhood. Long before that, the area that is now the biggest Sainsburys in south London, was occupied by a polluting but colourful paper works through which the River Wandle ran, carrying strips of paper and goodness knows what kinds of chemical. I used to love going past it as a child. Even longer ago, there was a Priory on that spot, of sufficient importance to have housed kings' remains and have a medieval statute named after it, and the ruins are preserved below one of the roads built to sort out the increasing congestion that the shoppers have brought. (You can see them if you take the pedestrian undercut between Sainsburys and Merton Abbey Mills.) We now have trout in the Wandle and new flats boasting 'Life on the River' at the Mills. But has this to say:
Places of Interest near Colliers Wood
No places of interest were found near Colliers Wood, if you know some, please let us know.
Ahhh, Colliers Wood. Perhaps, after its new found celebrity, The Tower, formerly the 'Brown and Root' building to those of us with long memories, would be missed.


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