More on downshifting:
Friends & acquaintances keep telling me they’re soon to move out to rural areas, priced out or cashing-out of the cities. One’s off to start a smallholding in Cork, another to a farmhouse perched atop a hill west of Oswestry, another to an animal-sanctuary in Bangor, yet another to Llandudno. All will retain ties to paying work via the internet & occasional visits to the cities – these talented people are not drop-outs. “From Cork?” I queried. “Oh yes, the Cork to London City flights take one hour. 48 quid return. It’s comparable with the train fare from Birmingham. And quicker.”. From gentrification to jettification! Plus; their considerable talents are also likely to start to earn them a complementary living locally, as local public-sector arts administrators begin to pick them up for workshops and projects. Others haven’t left yet, but talk of doing so within five years; probably at the juncture at which they “have made it”/”inherit it”; leaving for art studios/video-production hubs in country barns, for life aboard a canal narrowboat, to a terrace in Devon… for just anything that isn’t the inner city, new identikit estates or the dreaded suburbs. Another thing I keep hearing is “I couldn’t live in anything new. And besides, old is cheaper.” What of the loss of easy access to the “cultural ferment” of city-centre life? But then I think; what ferment? Because in a decade or so, it seems likely that house prices will have forced most of the fermenters over age 26 into the countryside and to the seaside towns. Where, let’s hope, they might re-invent or even make a sense-of-place there (think St. Ives, Jarman’s Dungeness, Andrew Logan’s Berriew, the 90s creatives’ colonisation of Brighton, the current movement of artists from London to the North Kent coast). And the demographics suggest they’ll be joined by a parallel movement of grey-haired upper-middle class baby-boomer retirees – who may first take a glance at city living (good galleries, live performances, etc), but then decide that they can get what they want just as easily in the countryside or on the coast. After all, why trek across the city to the last art cinema when you’ve got a home-cinema & online-shops/eBay will deliver 250,000+ DVD’s from all around the world to your door? Libraries, ditto. Why live near a Sainsburys when you’ve got a large garden, three farmer’s markets nearby, and a host of internet-based food-delivery services eager for your custom? Yes; the cities will still offer more live performances & big public galleries aimed at the over 40s, which can’t be delivered to your home. But that’s what people take short-break trips for.