Just inside the entrance to Westfield you can pick up issue 2 of the E20 Journal. This is a big glossy publication with bright orange card covers, bespoke cover art and full colour printing across 48 pages. It claimed to be a celebration of 10 years in Stratford, because yes it's that old now, so I carted a copy home.
Naturally it's vacuous brand-obsessed marketing fodder. Over half the content is fashion focused, including eight pages of zoomed-in accessories, and the remainder barely ticks the anniversary box. One double page focuses on sweet treats to graze on, another on "iconic beauty brands and their must-try hero products" and another on how to assemble the perfect cocktail bar at home. It is of course very much not aimed at me, but interestingly I took a copy home whereas the target audience shopper behind me picked up a copy, flicked through and put it straight back.
Which got me thinking. I see Westfield as an extremely convenient shopping mall where I can buy socks, paperbacks and 59p birthday cards. Westfield however sees itself as an upmarket flagship lifestyle destination packed with retail, hospitality and entertaiment opportunities, because for many people these days that's a default day out. And whilst high streets and shopping malls have always partly served this purpose, the 21st century has seen the inexorable rise of commercial enclaves specifically designed to harvest the cream of London's disposable income. I've decided to call them dearstinations.
London's 21st century dearstinations
1)Westfield London: That's the Shepherd's Bush one, the ultimate honey trap, carefully zoned to keep the luxury cluster separate from the plebs. You could walk round in circles for hours, which is entirely the idea. It even includes a capitalist theme park for kids at £30+ a time because they very much saw you coming. 2)The O2: Everything inside the former Millennium Dome costs, unless it's a sponsored attraction by a big name brand hoping you'll like them more after you've been inside. Essentially it's a crescent of restaurants and an underwhelming outlet mall surrounding a big-ticket arena, plus the opportunity to walk over the roof for an additional charge. Hen parties welcomed. Return trip on the Dangleway optional. 3)Westfield Stratford City: As previously discussed. 4)King's Cross: The redeveloped area north of the canal lures you in with its fountains, then nudges you into the screaming void of Coal Drops Yard ("This is boutique shopping at its best") and hopes to retain you in its bars, brasseries and unnecesarily bijou cinema. Not as amazing as it thinks it is. 5)Wembley Park: A latecomer to the party, but they'd really like you to visit their outlet mall (which actually has bargains, unlike North Greenwich), their Boxpark canteen and all the other supposed attractions the developer's marketing team regularly screech about.