diamond geezer

 Sunday, January 12, 2020

Let's eke out my 20/20-themed start to the decade with one last post.

There's no longer an A2020, so I've been out walking the A20 instead. It runs to Dover but starts in New Cross, so that's where I picked it up on the lookout out for 20 things of interest. I had high hopes. The first few miles through Lewisham and Lee are fully built-up throughout, and only around Eltham does the A20 divert onto tedious dual carriageway. My first aim was to spot 20 pubs, but times have changed and I only found seven, so ended up cataloguing 20 diverse establishments instead. Alas all I discovered is that shop names aren't as interesting or clever as experience might suggest.

20 shops/businesses on the A20

The Fat Walrus
Red Planet Pizza
You Deserve Beauty And Spa Juice
Aladdin's Cave
• Everest Curry King
• Utopia
• Coat Of Arms
• Bucketmouth
• Blessed Hair
• Hummusa
 • Hair Perfecxion
• Sputnick
• Frank Stars
Allodi Accordions
• JSM Soles
• Awesome Cafe
• Nana Icie's Music
The Old Tiger's Head
• Redeemed Christian Church Of God Winners Sanctuary
• Museum of Neoliberalism

And that last one looked really interesting, so I went in.

Museum of Neoliberalism
Location: 16 Eltham Road, Lee Green SE12 8TF [map]
Open: 11am - 7pm (Thursdays-Sundays)
Admission: free (but safest to book in advance to ensure it's open)
Five word summary: the enslavement of the proletariat
Website: spellingmistakescostlives.com/museumofneoliberalism
Time to set aside: quarter of an hour

It looks like just another shop on a parade in Lee Green, beside a launderette, but somehow it's also a museum. Pause awhile and inspect the objects in the front window, including dodgy tweets on dangling phones and a graph of UK inequality, and you'll start to get the idea. The curators of the Museum of Neoliberalism are Darren Cullen and Gavin Grindon, who are very unhappy about the way businesses are allowed to rule our lives and (because they're artists) have a good idea about how to make that interesting. Step inside and they'll tell you how bad unbridled capitalism is, without ever descending into polemic. [video]

The first case catalogues where neoliberalism came from - a small group of Chicago economists in 1947 - and follows its spread across the globe. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan warmly embraced their theories, maximising freedoms for business whilst rolling back the state. There isn't a single UK Prime Minister in the last 40 years whose economic policies the Museum approves of. But opinions work better backed up with examples, so several are provided. Observe how PFI contracts charge hospitals £333 for a lightbulb. See a bottle of urine filled by an Amazon worker who didn't dare take a toilet break. Scan down a list of government privatisations since 1979. Count how many foreign countries run our train network. Gasp at the shameless sponsorship of cub scout badges (seriously, a Cycling badge in conjunction with Halfords and an Entertainer badge emblazoned with Shrek The Musical - that is appalling). The most jarring exhibit is a Grenfell cutaway showing flammable cladding and insulating foam on one side and some nursery wallpaper on the other.

It all peters out after a couple of turns, indeed what we actually have here is a display screen divided up and bent into shape to fit inside a small commercial unit. And at the back is something I really wasn't expecting given the subject matter, even though it's an absolute museum staple - a gift shop. It's well stocked too, from MoN bookmarks at pocket money prices to tote bags, calendars, rucksack patches, framed posters and a copy of the South London Review of Hand Driers. I guess the artists have to make a living, and the varied selection of goodies shows they're clearly very talented, but I absolutely didn't buy any of it. I'd learned that capitalism is a con, so I wasn't falling for that.

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