Cyling home in the torrential rain last night I ran into crowds of people pointing, smiling and debating Banksy’s new pop up store on Church Street. Of course people will always find reason to criticise it, but here are five reasons why I love it:
1) IT’S BRILLIANT FOR CROYDON. It is going to bring in more footfall for our great local businesses, and more people will get to experience the delights of Surrey Street Market as they come to see it. We can also use it to highlight the fantastic arts scene here already: people who come and see Banksy should also visit the brand new Fairfield Halls and the Brit School.
2) IT STARTS A POLITICAL DEBATE. Critics will say the displays in the window – things like a dozen CCTV cameras pointing at a baby’s crib, or a teddy bear with a needle in it – are too obvious and hard-hitting, but I liked them because they are easily accessible and get people talking. I overheard people discussing a pile of bright orange life jackets with reference to the migrant crisis, and environmentalism is raised too with a line of ducklings headed up by duck bleach.
3) IT MAKES FUN OF ITSELF. Banksy has been criticised for “selling out”, but here in this store he pretends to sell his own merchandise back to the community (mugs with his famous prints are displayed in the window with sarcastic labels). People may have turned his art into commercialisation, but now he’s turning that commercialisation back into art. The very name of the store “Gross Domestic Product” tells us that he thinks these products are “gross” and part of a much bigger economic problem.
4) IT’S FUN AND SPONTANEOUS. I loved that all these people were brought together in the rain. The clinking old fashioned music that streams about like an old fashioned department store adds a kind of fairground feeling to the whole thing and harks back to the days of the old stores in Croydon like Alders when globalisation didn’t feel quite so out of control.
5) IT DRAWS ATTENTION TO OUR HIGHSTREETS and celebrates the pop up model. Banksy has the power and money to do this kind of thing, but we should use his example as an inspiration and help other smaller artists to be able to share their talent too. This is particularly important in areas where there are empty shop fronts that would benefit from new creativity.