diamond geezer

 Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Now that Midtown is no more, it'd be hilarious if there were another Business Improvement District with an equally overblown name.

Enter the London Heritage Quarter, or London HQ for short.

Brandingwise that's quite clever, but meaningwise it's uberbolx.

When I found a leaflet called "Christmas in the London Heritage Quarter" at Victoria station, I wondered where the London Heritage Quarter might be. I assumed it included Victoria, and indeed it did, but the map went a lot further than that.

From Belgravia to the Royal Courts of Justice via the Whitehall and Trafalgar Square, that's quite some heritage quarter. But although Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster, Piccadilly Circus and the Royal Opera House are shown prominently on the map they're not officially within the boundaries of the London Heritage Quarter, nor are tourist classics like The Ritz, St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London. This is less a Heritage Quarter and more a commercial sausage with some heritage in it, because that's what happens when branding teams over-reach.

On the back of the map are "5 Ways To Celebrate Christmas In The London Heritage Quarter", because "what better way to celebrate than exploring this wonderful area". I really hate "what better way to...", it's such lazy copywriting, because there are invariably zillions of better ways than what's on offer.

Number 1 is to go skating at Somerset House - fair enough, although it's entirely sold out up until Christmas so bad luck. Number 2 is to "take in the amazing and illuminating lights throughout Aldwych, Strand, Villiers Street and Victoria Street", because those are the only lights the BID has funded. More desperately they invite you to "tag us in your festive snaps", which I see a sum total of zero people have done so far. Number 3 is to watch a screening of the Nutcracker at a Curzon cinema, which you've missed, and number 4 is a musical for kids at the National Gallery. And oh dear, number 5...

My issue here isn't the festive market in Trafalgar Square itself - there are many visitors who love a pop-up chalet village flogging glühwein, overpriced pretzels and assorted packaged trinkets. My issue is the ridiculous claim that you can "get everything on your list this year... at the pop up Christmas Market in Trafalgar Square". This is also lazy copywriting, a downright lie lifted from the cliché shelf, as is the habit of too many coasting marketeers. Numerous alternative phrasings exist (and could easily have been used), but these hype-merchants always have to go one step too far to make their event sound like it's the very best, not just great.

I can't find anything about Christmas in the London Heritage Quarter online - the London HQ website is essentially a vacuum - so this leaflet might be a one-off end-of-year throwaway. I've not even found any evidence of a London HQ press release being recycled by one of the usual suspects. It is astonishing to think that central London businesses are paying for this limp collateral out of their business levies, but such are the placemaking ambitions of their BID masters.

London Heritage Quarter is in fact the "umbrella brand" for four adjacent Business Improvement Districts - Victoria, Victoria Westminster, Whitehall and The Northbank. BID areas are generally quite small and can only fund projects within their own boundaries, so it makes sense to band together if you want to have wider clout. The same thing ultimately led to the downfall of the most up-itself BID of all, that's Midtown, which since it merged with Clerkenwell has been known by the mind-dulling name of the Central District Alliance. This hasn't stopped them from putting up their own Christmas lights, but it probably has stopped anyone being interested.

London now has over 50 BIDs - you can see a possibly-not-up-to-date map here. BIDs with particularly jaunty names include Baker Street Quarter Partnership, Bayswater Village, Better Bankside, Blue Bermondsey, Camden Town Unlimited, Fitzrovia Partnership, Heart of London Business Alliance, Kingston First, Love Wimbledon, Paddington Now, Station To Station, Stratford Original, Successful Sutton, Team London Bridge, Try Twickenham, Vauxhall One and We Are Waterloo.

Many of them sound like a cross between a hedge fund and a sports team, as if named in a room buzzing with champagne, bitcoin and testosterone, but none has the overblown chutzpah of the London Heritage Quarter. If you've ever been out to enjoy yourself in Victoria, Westminster or the Strand, you invariably did it without their help.

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