2020 vision: Old-age homes for the YBAs, Simon Cowell's 'Big Brother' makeover and the McPolyphenol burger
Sunday 27 December 2009
From Heston Blumenthal's molecular menu makeover at McDonald's to the horror of Big Brother's comeback, BB: Celebrity Suicide Watch, the past decade has seen our leisure time transformed in ways we could never have imagined.
It is technology, of course, which has heralded many of the most dramatic changes in the past decade. And at the end of 2010, the Tories set the techie tone: in the first collaboration of its kind, the new government partnered with Carphone Warehouse to entitle anyone without an iPhone to a special upgrade benefit, in order to help them become a more meaningful part of society. It coincided with the memorably chilling state campaign to educate children on the dangers of joining the same social networks as their parents. Our iPhone-centric culture, though, has had its casualties – quite literally, in the case of the two publicans who were tragically shot dead by police at an illegal protest in 2011 against the mandatory introduction of the now commonplace anti-binge-drinking Breathalyser app, which monitors citizens' alcohol intake via Google Earth, GPS and CCTV facial recognition software.
On a happier note, 2012 saw the launch of Jamie's Tower, the UK's first self-sufficient food complex, owned by Sir Jamie Oliver. Housed in London's former BT Tower, the farm-grocery-restaurant hybrid sells only meat reared on the building's hydroponic meadows and vegetables harvested from the living exterior of the building. Oliver's plans for a chain are on hold, however, as the "Heal Our High Street" movement continues to gather strength. McDonald's might have been saved by Heston Blumenthal's McPolyphenol burgers 10 years ago, but Starbucks is still floundering after its rebrand: despite each branch having been given a different name and look – and the tagline "the original independent coffee house" – the chain is still struggling.
Meanwhile, it's definitely been the British tourist industry's decade. Record numbers of Britons stayed at home after the country's transformation into the northern hemisphere's number-one holiday destination. Developments such as Newcastle Tyneside beach, the Beckingham Palace theme park and the new luxury resorts springing up on the Shetland Isles have all contributed. Abroad, meanwhile, and despite a recent four-fold increase in the cost of flights, thousands of elderly ravers have been flocking to Ibiza's Still 'Avin' It, the world's first superclub for the over fifties, opened in 2018 by the 58-year-old DJ Danny Rampling.
Home entertainment reached new levels. It's strange to think that only a few years ago we couldn't sit next to holographic Come Dine With Me contestants, or that we still had to use a clunky remote-control device to switch platforms and channels. As for content, it's been a controversial decade. First there was 2014's cult low-budget YouTube series Sharia Court, based on Granada television's 1970s Crown Court format. Then, two years later, came The Real Royal Family, the brainchild of Peter Bazalgette and Prince Andrew. The toe-curlingly awful reality show hoped to claw back some of the regal funding that the then prime minister Gordon Brown had reappropriated during the great Noughties' Depression. It's a miracle that those posh tucker trials didn't finish the Queen off. (Or that they weren't Prince Charles' idea.)
The reality TV death knell almost literally rang when Big Brother returned, after a five-year hiatus, with Simon Cowell at the helm. But BB: Celebrity Suicide Watch, the self-help/talent-contest hybrid which went head-to-head with Google's Suicide Clinic – wherein viewers got to vote on who most deserved a luxury Swiss death – was, fortunately, a flop.
In society at large, leisure time is changing for our increasingly elderly population. Four years ago, of course, the Tories scrapped retirement for any over-sixties who'd ever claimed benefits and, in partial response, the septuagenarian Charles Saatchi opened the country's first Old Britsters' Home, in Stroud. The charitably funded establishment was designed to provide a "creative environment for an elderly artistic community". The building is covered in cheery Damien Hirst spots and residents, many with dementia – which now affects 300,000 more of the population than it did in 2010 – are encouraged to relive early memories by scrawling the names of everyone they've ever slept with on the walls of the on-site "Groucho Bar". But let's not knock the concept – in another decade's time, some of us could be heading there... '
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