Am I over-dramatising? Well probably, but what the hell. We are having to close down our studio gallery after five years of very hard work and almost no days off for the Painter. It is SO upsetting. In fact, I have started this post several times now, but I get too upset to continue and have to go away and make a cup of tea each time until I get myself together. I know that with each ending comes a new beginning and that we will find another way to make a living/satisfy the creative imperative/fill up our time, but at the moment none of that is really making me feel any better.
It is probably unfortunate for us that the time the commercial space below our flat became available and we jumped right on it (May 2008) was right before the recession hit the UK (January 2009). So the whole time that we have had the gallery it has been more of a struggle than it would have been had we opened it for instance in 2006 or 2004. Having said that, it has managed to not only stay afloat but to provide a basic living for us, to be a studio space for the Painter to work in, and to be an outlet for the dolls and jewellery. Every Christmas up until now it has made enough to carry us through the difficult months of January to March. Not so this year, though. This year everyone shopped online or at the chain stores in the shopping centres. Places like our Hastings High Street, which is full of quirky individual shops, and not a chain store to be found, were pretty much abandoned by the populace who all went off to wave their credit cards in shops selling mass produced goods. I understand the reasons why of course – it’s easier to order online and get goods delivered, the weather has been awful and no-one wants to go out in it, there is an international shortage of disposable income which seems to correlate to a rise in the temptation to buy something generic rather than something special, we are all having trouble paying our mortgage/rent/utilities – and so shopping for pleasure has become something we have rather put to one side, as though it were a bad habit. Numerous reasons. All of which seem to make sense on a superficial level, but on an economic level make for bad, bad news.
You didn’t come into our gallery this Christmas to spend anything more than £15 on some cards. So I didn’t go shopping next door to buy the handbag I wanted to get as a present for my sister. I ordered a cheaper and not-so-lovely one online. I couldn’t afford the fare to go up to town and take my mother out to do her Christmas shopping. She would have spent a fair amount of money in her area, so her local shops have suffered by her doing her shopping through Amazon. In fact, so many of us did not go to our local shops this year that come the early months of 2014 many of these tiny independent businesses will be closing down. Amazon, however, will be going from strength to strength.
So, in your dotage, will you tell your grandchildren stories about when there used to be independent shops, with people who knew their trade well and gave you advice for free and showed you how they made things, or told you the history of the painting you were buying, or stayed open late because you telephoned to say you were coming but were delayed? Will your grandchildren believe you about all this when the only places they can go to shop are large impersonal stores, selling mass produced goods with built in obsolescence? Or Amazon, of course, which by then will quite possibly own the world.
In the future will we all be hiding out in our homes, working from the internet, ordering food and everything else from the web, awaiting deliveries which are brought through the deserted streets to our doors by the few brave souls who still venture outside – The Deliverants?
How very sad – I shall miss shopping.