The Rebranding Of London

London, Observatory

Estate agents have long been trying to foist New York names onto London properties, in the hope that people will pay more for a small box if it’s called a Manhattan Loft.

Possibly the most stupid new wave of branding began when in 2008, the Candy Brothers were criticised by angry Fitzrovia residents for rebranding the area as Noho. The creepy Candys named an apartment building they were developing Noho – supposedly meaning north of Soho. In New York, Noho works because it’s NOrth of HOuston Street. Noho in London would have made no sense – NOrth of SOho? So why not Noso? (Let’s not even ask ourselves why they would have wanted to build something that looked like a silver balloon on the site of the rugged Victorian Middlesex Hospital, now sadly demolished.)

The Candys, who seem to specialise in vulgarizing London neighbourhoods, pulled out of the redevelopment and the name was dropped. But elsewhere, estate agents tried to rename Aldgate and Hoxton in east London CitySide, and Elephant & Castle in south London South City.

But wait! Here comes the dumbest idea of all – someone is trying to rename Bloomsbury, where writers, intellectuals and artists congregated throughout the 20th Century. The home to the British Museum, celebrated for its cultural history, is to be called Midtown.

The term has been used by estate agents and hotels seeking US dollars. But if you’ve left the Tube at Holborn station in recent weeks, you may have been greeted by men in orange jackets, handing out maps and calling themselves “inmidtown rangers”. Walk in any direction and you may have noticed lamp posts clad with flags boldly stating “inmidtown”.

This is the work of local business interest group Inmidtown, run by Tass Mavrogordato, which hopes to raise the profile of what I guess he just sees as the bit between the City of London and the West End. Tass Mavrogordato – actually let’s rename her Betty, it’s easier for people to understand – says people don’t understand where Bloomsbury is. I guess Virginia Woolf was a member of the Midtown Group.

Residents and workers point out that it’s the estate agents and people like Joe who can’t be arsed to learn the parts of London.

13 comments on “The Rebranding Of London”

  1. Linus Rees says:

    InMidtown are a Business Improvement District — a public-private partnership with Camden Council. The re-branding is probably the lesser of many evils they will bestow on the good people of Holborn, St Giles and Bloomsbury. See http://news.fitzrovia.org.uk/2010/08/12/historic-london-districts-re-branded-midtown/

    Josephine would be a better re-branding of Tass Mavrogordato, unless you have a more radical re-branding in mind: gender re-assignment.

    Linus Rees
    assistant editor Fitzrovia News

  2. Jon says:

    The utter insidiousness (sp.) of inmidtown has been covered elsewhere. See here for example: http://crapwalthamforest.blogspot.com/2010/09/cyclists-in-mid-town.html

  3. Alan Morgan says:

    No, no, no, no, no! Fifteen years back we’d laugh at fops that remarked on Clarm (Clapham) and St. Reatham (Streatham)* – though I think Brixton defeated them. But this is more wrong than Norseman Lager ice cream.

    *Oh, and Battersea being bat-er-see-ah, like it was next to Vulgaria in a mysterious eastern Europe in the habit of stealing flying cars.

  4. Terenzio says:

    The term West End was coined in the 19th century to promote that the area of London occupied by Soho, Mayfair, Marylebone and Fitzrovia. Today these places are still known by their individual names.

    Grouping Bloomsbury, Holborn and St. Giles under the name Midtown is no different. What is so objectionable because Midtown is also an area of New York City? Topographically speaking it is a pretty accurate term since the area is between the West End (to the west) and the City of London (to the east) voilà midtown. Bloomsbury will continue to be known as Bloomsbury just like Marylebone is still known as Marylebone. This is just a way to pull economic resources to help the area as a whole.

  5. Diogenes says:

    “This is just a way to pull economic resources to help the area as a whole.”

    Hmmm. Why is it that spin doctors are so illiterate?

  6. Anne Hill Fernie says:

    As an ex resident of London, now resident in Manchester and on holiday in New York, the urban ‘rebranding’ appears to be endemic. It would appear that local councils are so financially in thrall to business that they are the ones who call the shots (and invest the cash). So much easier to segment cities into marketing ‘zones’; get rid of the old names (identities) and give them new ones. I’ve listened to endless New Yorkers grumbling about how controlled their environment is these days although I haven’t noticed the frightening level of CCTV cameras that we have at home (yet) but there are scary numbers of plain clothed coppers in Manhatten. What can be done though – I rail endlessly about this in Manchester that is fast losing any integrity and turning into a consumer/conference haven with direly poor districts around and about the city centre – grim.

  7. Terenzio says:

    One day when I was a wee lad my grandmother said something that she had heard when she was young. It went something like…the cynic is one who never sees a good quality in a man, and never fails to see a bad one. He is the human owl, vigilant in darkness and blind to light, mousing for vermin, and never seeing noble game. The cynic puts all human actions into two classes – openly bad and secretly bad…

  8. Terenzio says:

    Inmidtown.org (Inholborn.org) is just a group of 450 local businesses who have banded together to promote the area. What is there to spin? All it is a bunch of local businesses trying to survive and promote the historical richness of the area.

    Marylebone and Soho 100+ years later still retain their individual identities, so why would Bloomsbury be any different.

    Oh – dear – one thing I just noticed, I seemed to have made an error. I meant to say “geographically speaking”. While I was typing I must have been looking at a book I have on maps on the bookshelf near my desk and typed in topographically by mistake. Funny how that happens sometimes. Oh well – to err is human.

  9. Helen Martin says:

    I can understand changing names to encourage businesses locating there if there were a negative image connected with the name. Seven Dials was once an undesirable location and Limehouse certainly wasn’t a place you’d want your daughter working but what is undesirable or confusing about Bloomsbury, or Holborn? As for tourists, if they’re looking for the residence of Ruskin or Virginia Woolf they’re certainly not going to look for inmidtown.

  10. admin says:

    Terenzio dear chap, you miss the point on this one. We ALREADY have dirty needles lying around in the street where kids play (I picked up three at the weekend). This is about Camden cynically pushing problems of its own making across the border. King’s Cross had one of the highest crime rates until the dealers were moved out. Now they’ll come back to feed the need.

  11. Jon says:

    “Inmidtown.org (Inholborn.org) is just a group of 450 local businesses who have banded together to promote the area. ”

    Why do they need wardens then?

  12. Terenzio says:

    A center for people to exchange needles in the area might help to alleviate discarded dirty needles in the area. And if there is a problem, people who live around Kings Cross might want to consider banding together to form some sort of community association of volunteers willing to lend their time to help keep the area clean. There is no easy fix. Unfortunately, drug addiction like other addictions such as alcohol affects the entire community. To say a drug center will attract dealers is just not right. There are people who need help. I have been to enough social events, dinner parties and community meetings in my lifetime where I have actually heard people say…well – you know I feel really bad for them, but I don’t want that sort of person or that type of facility in my neighborhood. On more than one occasion I’ve walked in disgust. I’m not being a cynic either. I am being a realistic. I’ve experienced first hand people putting their own selfish interests ahead of the welfare others.

    Blaming Camden Council or anyone else for that matter doesn’t solve the problem. What could help to solve the problem is a center where people can go for help to kick their addiction or at the very least get clean needles to cut down on the number of people who contract HIV/AIDS through dirty needles. It’s a terrible disease that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

    As far as children are concerned, teach your kids not to pick up dirty needles. Take responsible for your kids. There are lot more hazards out there besides dirty needles. We all live in this world together – children, men, women and even people with addictions.

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