THE BLOG

Rumours of the Death of London's Soho Have Been Exaggerated

04/12/2014 21:10 GMT | Updated 03/02/2015 10:59 GMT

The fact Madame JoJo's is closing is sad. Just as the death of anything that is part of our history is sad. There were certain club nights there that were very special indeed, but knowing their clientele, they will find other places to express themselves, perhaps the newly refurbished and sumptuous Shadow Lounge just across the way could accommodate?

JoJo's is wending it's way into the memories of Soho just as the likes of Blitz, Gossips, Billy's and the Wag Club have done before it.

Let's avoid phrases like 'gentrification' when we are talking about the complexity of managing urban development. It's one of those mealy mouthed words that actually mean very little, but is used as a putdown catchall for change.

The old Soho days, sex with a condom was two quid more than without, vomit on every corner, vicious exploitation of women and you could buy a gun for twenty quid. Do we really want to return to that?

I recently spent ten years in the North East. A few people there wanted to bring back coal mines, dangerous working and a life expectancy of 45. However, most people were happier looking at The Angel of the North than they were at the pit heads. The Baltic Art gallery and the Sage Gateshead offer one generation far better working conditions than the pits did the generation before. Does this count as 'gentrification'?

Soho has always been and remains, one of the most creative square miles in the world, a quarter of it's working population work in the creative sectors and 20% of the new creative jobs in London are in this tiny, buzzing, bonkers square mile. I've worked here, on and off, all my life. I've watched the journey. It's better now than it was.

In my current job, running SohoCreate, I work with companies in Soho, the property owners and the Council. There is not a conspiracy to destroy Soho, there is instead a powerful belief in its endearing greatness and a desire to build on that and keep it exciting, edgy and relevant.

City centres all over the UK are in danger of losing their beating heart. Of course we must keep artists and performers central to any plans to keep cities creative places. This is an important battle to fight both in our cities and in our schools. We need to work together to make the case, not disappear into conspiracy theory and nostalgia.

I think Yeats said "Young men have dreams, old men only memories". Things change, they progress, let's get on with it, not constantly witter on about a past that we can't regain. Soho is extraordinary, let's celebrate it not prematurely mourn its death.

Perhaps a more pertinent quote is from Cob in the film Inception

"Never recreate places from your memories, always imagine new places. Only use details. A street lamp or a phone booth. Never entire areas. Building a dream from your memory is the easiest way of losing your grasp on what's real and what is a dream."