“You feel that? The way the shit just sticks to the air? There’s a shit-blizzard comin, I always know”.

This blog has nothing to do with the shop directly, but I need to spew out some thoughts and feelings about the utter shitstorm we have found ourselves in and then maybe I might feel a tiny bit better about things.

 

I am not a support worker, I am not a counsellor, I am not a doctor or a teacher.  I own a shop.  So why, in the last 3 days on 2 separate occasions, have I had two young women with mild learning difficulties crying on my shoulder?

I will tell you exactly why these women were crying – because on Friday we all awoke to a climate which has given a green light to racists, making them think that they are now free to say whatever they want to anyone.  These women were crying because someone had said ‘Go home Paki’ to them.  For one of the girls it was the first time in her life that she had ever experienced this.  She told me that she is now scared to leave her house.

Of course I know that not everyone who voted Leave is a racist, but this won’t matter to the far right, who now think they have over 17 million kindred spirits.  They are now feeling empowered.  And somehow we have reached a point whereby when someone brings up the subject of racism/xenophobia within the Leave campaign, they are shot down with gurning cries of ‘Sore loser! Lefty Liberals! Get over it and move on!’ (more on this matter further down).  Again, if anyone tries to point out that all the major university cities (London, Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester etc) had a Remain majority, and that people with degree level education voted mainly Remain, they are accused of classism and snobbery – after all, ‘people are sick of experts’ aren’t they Gove? 

It is hard to be heard in a sea of crappy, hastily cobbled together memes.  It is frustrating when you know that the majority of the 17 million have had their views moulded, and thus ultimately legitimised by the newspaper that they have read all their life.  The majority of these people are under the spell of a man who offers them lies and tells them what to think.  This man has the power to tell his people to vote Blair…so they vote Blair.  And when he decides that Cameron is his new bitch, he tells his subjects to vote Cameron…and they do.  I can’t even write his name because I despise him so much but we all know who I mean.  But people chose to read and act upon his inflammatory headlines and ignore those pesky scaremongering experts.  As patronising as I know it sounds, I truly feel for these people as we all know that they will be the ones who will feel the reverberations from this the strongest.  And it won’t be pretty.  ‘Turkeys voting for Christmas’, ‘Lambs to the slaughter’ – however you want to put it, these people, on the whole, have been blinded and tricked by a whole world of lies.

So now what?  There are so many aspects of this sorry mess which have, over the last 3 days, fuelled our shock, our grief, and now our anger.  The lightening-quick rise of open right wing attitudes is just one factor of many.  And what do we do next?  Continue to repost the aforementioned memes on social media and cry when we watch the news? This is why I feel so angry when people (both Remain and Leave supporters) tell people to just move on and get on with things as normal.  Although I do understand why they say this, how on earth is it possible?  How can any of us just carry on in the same way that we were doing this time last week?

I really could go on and on.  My mind is clouded with this.  There are just too many factors that scare the fuck out of me, and many more besides that I don’t even fully understand.  All I do know is that I am not the sort of person who will just lie down and accept things when my gut tells me that it is wrong.  And things feel very wrong right now.  To paraphrase the great Mr Leahy: “Great Britain, you just opened up Pandora’s shit-box”.

 

 

OPEN LETTER TO GMPF #1

This is an open letter to GMPF, our business landlord.  It is highly probable that it will be the first of many such letters over the next 18 months.

Dear GMPF,

Ten years ago this month I moved to Chorlton as a bit of a stop gap whilst I figured out what to do with my life.  And, as life has panned out in the unexpected way that it does, I never left and I am now happily settled, raising two children and running a successful business in this strange but loveable suburb.

A heatwave was just kicking in on the day I came here back in 2006 which made the whole exciting move even more full of promise.  We were in a whole new world of beer gardens, open mic nights and roof top BBQs!  I remember going off to explore my new surroundings and stumbling upon the precinct and wondering if I had stepped into a 70’s verion of the Twilight Zone.  And I don’t mean that as a negative – for me it felt special and was somewhere full of untapped potential.  I always knew that it would inevitably be updated at some point, but I could very clearly picture a way to do it and still retain some of its nostalgic charm.

In the time I have lived here, Chorlton precinct has had at least 3 owners to my knowledge.  And over the years, rumours of redevelopment have been ever present.  I remember public consultations and architectural plans aplenty, but then the recession hit and all these plans were, I guess, put on the back burner. 

For me, the timing was perfect.  In 2011 I had my first child which gave me the opportunity to see those shop units in the precinct sitting empty and I began to formulate a long term plan – I knew by then that I wanted a business in Chorlton precinct and I was going to find a way to make it happen, no matter what.

Fast forward to the present day and that goal has been achieved…for now.  I understood when I signed my lease that it expired in 2018 but I didn’t worry because I don’t think I fully appreciated the potential that my business had back then.  I guess I thought I’d be just content to have a shop for a few years and I didn’t really consider too far ahead.  But time is ticking fast and battle mode is setting in.

I now have 3 children – a girl one, a boy one and a shop one.  I unashamedly admit to loving the non-human one just as much as the human ones.  The roots of all 3 are connected to the precinct to some degree and I can’t accept that in less than 2 years it could all be over if all the spaces are allocated to large corporations.  We have all worked hard to create something special in a part of Chorlton which we truly love.  The Chorlton Art Market belongs in the precinct.

My fear is that the redevelopment will see the precinct turned into a soulless identikit plastic mall when I know that it has the potential to be something truly special and something which could be a real gem for Chorlton.  As anyone who has ever lived here will tell you, Chorlton is a beautifully weird place, filled with people with a great sense of social pride and I believe that you, the landlords, have an amazing opportunity to create something that will sit pride of place in your property portfolio.

When the time comes, please consider the fate of my family business – a business which supports over 60 other local people and a business which is loved by an ever-growing customer base.  In a place like Chorlton, with a bit of imagination something ‘different’ has the potential to thrive…but only if the opportunities are there. Please don’t forget about us when you make your plans.

All together now: ‘Sometimes its hard to be a (business) woman…’

Don’t get me wrong – I love having a shop.  It is a dream come true.  Like most people, I played ‘shops’ as a child and now I get to do it for real every day.  So essentially my life is just one long play time.

Except sometimes, it isn’t quite like that.  Because the playtime never ends.  And in reality, constant ‘playtime’ is actually really hard work.  In some ways I can draw parallels with the Twilight Zone episode, A Nice Place to Visit, but I’m not repeatedly winning in a casino and I’m in Chorlton, not hell so it’s not quite the same (the CAMhub really is A Nice Place to Visit though).

As some will know, our shop is not like most shops.  The majority of our space is filled with the work and wares of over 60 local people and therefore provides income for individuals and families and helps to support the local economy in a very direct way.  It took a long time to become a reality – in some ways it has been brewing ever since I began organising charity events and cake sales when I was still a kid. All through my teens and twenties I slogged away in draughty village halls and fields doing craft fairs and summer fetes, and whilst I was at university in Preston I would sell my cards to a gift shop for a quid each (which was enough for 2 pints of Snakebite & Black on a Monday night in Squires so life was good).  This was before the days of social media so life really was a lot sweeter.  After a few years of pop up shops and markets and living a lifestyle way below the breadline, my shop dream somehow came true.

Anyway, my point is that the CAMhub did not spring up overnight.  It was not a drunken idea dreamt up in the pub with my mates and it is not a vanity project funded by rich husbands.  One of my main goals from the very beginning was to provide a platform for artists, craftspeople and small businesses to showcase their wares and build up their high street presence.  The ultimate goal was always for people to do well enough in our shop to go on to open their own shops, thus rejuvenating and improving the high street further.  I have always wanted the shop to help to improve the lives of like-minded people who have worked hard to build up their businesses, but I would have always expected honesty and openness from people who we work hard for.

We treat our traders very fairly and we know that our business plan focusses on ensuring that people who sell their wares with us make a good profit.  Our business model might be different from the norm, but it works well; being different is always better.  And it’s only going to continue to get better and better all the time.

Sometimes in business, as in everyday life, people do things which shock you.  Sometimes in life we all get treated in a manner which surprises us and makes you question the whole do-as-you-would-be-done-by philosophy.  Sometimes in life you just come across very selfish people and that’s just the way it is.  I have wanted to write this post for over a month now but I couldn’t find the words which weren’t swear ones.  Then I simply remembered the wise words from a dear old friend – he had a theory that when you want to be a better person when dealing with arseholes, you should think of John Cusack’s character in Stand by Me (the flashback scene where he gives his brother the baseball cap).  So, when I’m feeling pissed off about a situation, and when I would quite like to speak my mind, I tell myself: “Be more like dead Cusack”…and it always helps.

As ever we will continue to work hard to make the CAMhub the very best shop it can possibly be.  After a lot of hard work over the last few days, our Baby & Child section is better than it ever has been, with a much wider range of giftware and affordable high quality clothing than we have ever had.  We have listened to and acted on customer feedback from over the last 18 months and we are very proud to be bringing you our carefully selected collections of 100% cotton dresses and babygrows, as well as fairtrade wooden toys from Lanka Kade.  All this as well as our ever-evolving mixture of artwork, handmade crafts and vintage clothing.

So come and visit us tomorrow and see our beautiful shop for yourselves.  And I promise to continue to be more like dead Cusack.