From Tooting to Islington, our high streets are bereft of buzz and variety

I don't pine for childhood glories, but the disappearance of my old hairdresser is traumatic - and globalisation won't slow down any time soon

Share
Related Topics

For sad reasons that I'll explain at a later date, I spent part of yesterday morning walking around Tooting Broadway, where I grew up, with my Dad. The sky was grey going on black and the pavements were wet. But the high streets that I spent countless hours carousing through as a child and teenager are no more.

Of course they aren't, I hear you say. You're basically middle-aged these days, Amol, and just as life moves on so do high streets. Given 15 years, most of them change beyond recognition. Nostalgia is for losers, so grow up.

Fair enough. But I tell you what struck me about Tooting yesterday, other than that the frequency of the G1 bus seems unchanged: what's going on here is exactly what's going on in Upper Street in Islington, close to where I live now. And what's happening in both places is that small businesses are giving way to big, and variety has been lost to an identikit style where all retail is converging on brashness and big brands.

If you look at sepia-tinged photos of Upper Street from the first half of the 20th century, all human life is there – and boastfully so on shop windows. Walk down the road on a Saturday morning now, and I'm afraid it simply isn't. Basically all the shops are estate agents and restaurants. The odd shoe cobbler stands defiantly in the mix, but time is against him.

Similarly, in Tooting yesterday I went looking for a second-hand bookshop where I got my editions of Asterix (defunct), a record shop where I queued up to get the latest Green Day album (defunct) and my old newsagent (defunct). I wanted to get a haircut from Michael's in Tooting Bec, hoping to pay a fiver as ever. He's gone too, my dad said.

Nostalgia is one thing, but the slow erosion of what really is our common market is something much more traumatic. I don't pine for childhood glories, or bemoan globalisation, or have a problem with supermarkets. But the homogenisation of our high streets, which has many causes, is accelerating and cannot be slowed down.

It is a story repeated across right across Britain. When I wrote about the closure of Comet a fortnight ago, I said that rapid technological advance, globalisation and recession present a challenge to our economic programme that we haven't yet grasped. I must say I hadn't realised just how stark the evidence is from the place I once called home; or that, taken together, this constitutes the end of retail as we know it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas