Now I’m not one to get all political and shout about injustice and the wrongs of the world, but this week I can honestly say I have been so sad and disappointed in my local council that I totally understood the phrase ‘a crying shame’.
As you probably know, I am a small independant glass artist, lucky enough to be associated with a local charity that supports local art and I have volunteered in one of their retail/gallery spaces once a week for over 5 years now – Nucleus Arts in Rochester (Kent). Unlike most High Streets, Rochester, as well as having one of the oldest Castles and Cathedrals in the country, has the quaintest, most unique and friendly gathering of small local businesses – shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs. You could say that, along with being famously ‘Dickensian’ with it’s festivals and landmarks associated with the great man, these independent businesses are what makes Rochester, Rochester!
So it was with horror, but a sense that it surely wouldn’t actually happen, that I recently signed an e-petition (along with nearly 1000 other locals) to plead with our local council NOT to allow the massive chain that is COSTA COFFEE, to take over one of the most desirable, beautiful and best positioned buildings in the High Street! We already have (off the top of my head…) 10 fantastic, individual and welcoming tea and coffee shops – there may be more that I’ve forgotten. They rub along nicely together and fit in with the unique nature of our beloved Rochester extremely well. They connect with the local community, some providing space for artistic endeavours, and they are all owned and staffed by local people, who know who you are when you go in, and treat you with a sense of familiarity that these huge conglomerates never do.
So, imagine my distress when I read on facebook on Friday that our council planners in their 11-4 majority wisdom, have deemed that COSTA pose no threat or detriment to the wellbeing and livelihood of the High Street and it’s independent businesses! WHAT???? Sorry, didn’t they read the e-petition, the hand-written petition, the nearly 200 letters in objection to this application? Apparently not – apparently they read the ONE letter in support and were clearly dazzled by the corporate spin (and dare I say it, money) of the COSTA PR machine, who, I might add have already got permission to put another COSTA unit into the new Rochester Station that is being built over the road from the high st and probably 150M away from this delightful old building. Grrrrrrrrr!!!!
Sorry, but my rant is not over – I could cry at the sense of disappointment I felt when I realised that money speaks louder than the local residents who pay the wages of the local SERVANTS who represent their interests. I can draw no other conclusion…. call it cynical….. call it whinging….. I am so outraged I can feel myself thinking I should organise a march of protest!! And that’s really not me lol I have messaged @MarkReckless MP and asked him how this has happened – no reply and no comment on his FB page or twitter.
I guess that the conclusion I have therefore reached is that independent small businesses actually have nobody but themselves and each other to look out for them. Medway is fortunate that the arts scene is strong and lively and supportive and we will do our best to support our local cafes and tea shops and vote with our purses – we will NOT be visiting Costa Coffee – and as one of my friends said, maybe we will pick up their discarded take-away cups off our historic flagstone pavements and post them back to Costa through their antique letter box!
There you have it! When I have calmed down (maybe tomorrow) I will tell you all about Bling Bling and show you some lovely pictures of the new jewellery collection x