New Metropolitan Mainstream at its end?

The term, New Metropolitan Mainstream, brings together different processes leading towards an increasing economization of urban life: gentrification, urban regeneration, forced upgrading of neighbourhoods, luxury transformation of entire inner city areas, privatisation of public goods and spaces, instrumentalisation of flagship projects and international events in order to attract international investments and people with a high income.

Was the financial crisis the end of the New Metrolitan Mainstream? It seems it was, at least for the investment in prestigious cultural flagship projects in the US.

A study of the Cultural Policy Center, University of Chicago found out: 80% of new or refurbished buildings of the period 1994-2008 were a product of completely wrong calculation. Some museums had to close down only a few years after their opening. Many concert halls and theatres have huge problems surviving. The “Bilbao” Effect did not take place. And the amount of new buildings in the cultural sector is far beyond new hospitals or educational institutions.

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New Anti-squat interview material online

What is Anti-squat?

Anti-squat is a relatively new phenomenon, it is intended as a way to offer affordable housing in inner city areas, whilst also offering a solution to the problem of vacant properties. Like most traditional squatters, the residents maintain the property.  Unlike traditional squatters, the residents, or live-in guardians as they are sometimes known, are living in the vacant property with the owners’ permission. Residence via anti-squatting is arranged via a third party who the property owner pays to arrange the service. The residents often pay a comparatively low level of rent but are bound by strict rules, contravention of which can see them homeless within days. Plus their complicated tenancy status means they are not ‘residents’ in the traditional sense of the word that the law would understand, meaning that their rights can be compromised.

Inspired by the Broedplaatsen  (“broedplaats” is a hatchery or breeding ground) in Amsterdam which are designed to offer affordable work/living spaces for artists and what they refer to as “cultural entrepreneurs”. It is a model which has been used to challenge the concept of squatting and even the laws that allow it to occur. It has also been suggested that it may have a sanitising effect on the cultural and artistic scene of a locality. An idea explored by Tino Buchholz in his documentary Creativity and the Capitalist City. Tino also questions the idea that culture can be used for the economic regeneration of a city as per the ideas of Richard Florida.

Anti-squat in the U.K.

A company by the name of Camelot is one of the biggest proponents of anti-squat in the U.K. Their work is also being used to challenge the squatting laws here too. The model used by Camelot in the U.K is vastly similar to that in Amsterdam, however Amsterdam has a much wider ranging welfare state than the U.K meaning that they have less homelessness; herein lies a problem. Squatting is sometimes used as a solution by homeless or vulnerably housed people and therefore it should perhaps be questioned whether or not a scheme like anti-squat should be used as a basis for challenging squatting laws. Especially given the strict rules that are imposed by companies like Camelot, such as having a provable income,  are probably unlikely to be met if a person is homeless. Moreover, a person will not be accepted if they have a criminal record, so if squatting is made illegal, partly on the basis that anti-squat schemes like Camelot exist, a whole group of people that need the service might instantly become criminalised. These are amongst the many concerns that arise from anti-squat and its use a vehicle for outlawing squatting altogether.

On 22nd Sept 2010 Spectacle attended the 3rd annual Camelot Guardian Art competition at The Hatton, Faringdon. There we conducted interviews with Bob De Vilder, Marketing & Sales Director Camelot Europe and some current live in guardians. We discussed the scheme and some of the criticism surrounding its application. Please see our archive section to view these interviews. Please also bear in mind that the guardians were in the presence of, although not directly being observed by, Camelot employees at the time of the interview.


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50,000 promised Olympic Jobs becomes 70,000 unpaid McVolunteers

No Jobs only McVolunteers

No Jobs only McVolunteers

Countless employers are now facing the problem of dealing with twenty three working days without key employees come 2012.  The deadline to volunteer for the Olympics is the 27th of October, 2010. The London 2012 Olympics Organising Committee (LOCOG) have stated that 70,000 voluntary positions need to be filled, but more than 100,000  people have already applied. The voluntary roles consist of general and specialised positions, from desk staff, events stewards and drivers. Volunteers must work for a minimum of 10 days for the Games, and 20 for the Paralympic Games. Training is also mandatory for all participants.

There are also a further 8000 positions to be filled for the role of “London Ambassadors”, which would involve helping the vastly overstated and questionable increase of tourists and visitors in 2012 find their way around the city.

For more information visit.

These voluntary positions have been the source of much controversy. Back in 2007 London’s Employment and Skills Taskforce and the London Development Agency (LDA) were talking of the Olympics creating up to 50,000 new jobs in the Lower Lea Valley. Dee Doocey, chair of the Committee for Economic Development, Culture, Sport, and Tourism, the leading committee on the London Assembly for scrutinising the Olympics, commented on the announcement of a new ‘Living Wage’ for London of £7.20 an hour:

“The Mayor and Seb Coe signed an ‘Ethical contract’ with London Citizens before winning the Olympics, promising a Living Wage for everyone involved. Yet to date, no Living Wage has been included in the contracts allocated and Seb Coe told the London Assembly that ‘any of the issues about a living wage is a consideration, not a condition’. This is of great concern because LOCOG will be letting contracts for all the traditionally low paid jobs such as catering and cleaning. As for local businesses exploiting the games, as Coe had suggested, it is more likely that existing businesses will be endangered.”

The “workers” will be given Macdonalds meals and bus travel for the day, but are not even allowed free tickets for the events. To read more on this click here, here, and here.

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Exodus from Babylon’s organised piss up on every high street

Alcohol Inquiry

The recently published Alcohol Inquiry by The House of Commons Health Committee criticises the power and political influence of the alcohol industry and its lobbyists and their role in creating and profiting from a binge drinking (youth) culture.

Our documentary Exodus from Babylon (1997) details how the alcohol industry feeling under threat from the teetotal rave culture that was emptying pubs used its power and influence at national and local level to demonise and criminalise the free rave movement, to expand into club ownership, and to promote drink as a cheap legal psychoactive high.

All of the few, but very highly publicised, rave related deaths occurred not in the free “illegal” raves but in the commercially run venues where a bottle of water cost up to £3.00 and, to ensure market monopoly, the cold water taps in the toilets were switched off.

Once the free rave movement had been destroyed the alcohol industry successfully lobbied for more lax premises licences, longer drinking hours and produced cheaper and more youth targeted alcohol such as alcopops. Soon banks and cinemas on UK high streets were converted into bars and clubs and the excessive drinking culture of the predominantly young clientele became a major public order and health problem.

The media is happy to blame the victims, the young, but this binge culture is not cultural or “natural” it is about profit. Sales ‘would fall by 40%’ if we all drank responsibly. The drinks industry thrives and survives on binge drinking, it spent £800million on marketing alcohol while the  Government spent £17.6million on alcohol awareness in 2009/10.

The drinks industry exerts power via its lobbyist such as the Westminster Beer Club the Portman Group:
“The drinks industry can depend on harmful drinkers because it has more power over Government policies than health experts”  the MPs added.

The drinks industry, meanwhile, hit back. Simon Litherland of Diageo GB, which produces Guinness, Bell’s whisky and Smirnoff vodka, said he was ‘extremely disappointed by the committee’s divisive approach’.

For information on Exodus from Babylon (1997) and how to purchase the film visit Spectacle’s Catalogue

For other Exodus material