Homogenisation – 13 October 2022

The closure of Edinburgh’s Filmhouse is a bitter blow to the cultural life of the capital, just as much as the loss of employment to its staff.

It’s also sent tremors through other charitable organisations, as well as smaller entertainment and hospitality venues, as fuel prices rise. There’s a real danger that indigenous cultural venues will be lost, just as small artisan outlets will shut, leaving us with global chains and a homogenised culture.

The Filmhouse provided diversity that wasn’t often available elsewhere. I had been due to go and see a film as part of the Spanish Film Festival, which, so far, I’ve not even been able to find in London.

It provided a venue for local talent, as well as foreign films, not simply the latest imports from America that form the basis of the larger multiplex cinemas’ programmes.

Why appeals weren’t made when financial difficulties were looming beats me. I was a member for many years but let it lapse after I moved away. I’d have renewed and donated had I known.

Likewise, I’m sure corporate support might have been obtained. Hopefully, something can be done to save what’s a vital cultural institution and I’ll be happy to sign up once again.

Globalisation has made cities around the world much more homogenised. Almost everywhere you go, there’s a McDonalds, a Starbucks, an Irish pub and a multiplex showing the Hollywood blockbusters.

But it’s still important to retain diversity. When I’m abroad, I disdain those places and seek to enjoy different experiences, as much as seeing new sights. Folk coming to Scotland must be the same.

I’m not knocking Hollywood or the multiplexes. I know many who enjoy them, and that my taste is a minority one. But diversity’s important not just in cinema but more widely in entertainment and hospitality. It’s also important to preserve your own culture and support your own indigenous businesses.

If the local businesses go under, then what’s left is wall-to-wall provision by the big international chains. They’re often set by guidance or provision from head office, whether that’s London or New York. The world shrinking can be a good thing, but the loss of local differences and unique aspects certainly isn’t.

I know of a major pub and restaurant chain that operates in Scotland where the management had to argue fiercely to have Glayva available for diners. All drinks were centrally purchased with little flexibility for local taste. Head office hadn’t heard of the drink or its popularity. That’s a very minor issue but replicated across a far wider field it is a sign of the damaging homogenisation of outlets.

The danger is that the Tory government’s failure to protect businesses will see the small café, local pub or arts venue lose out and all that will be left standing will be the large chains and multiplexes. It’s not just a loss of economic control but a loss of culture and local diversity.

The high street’s already suffering. My local pet shop was telling me that they couldn’t even buy wholesale what Amazon was selling dog food for. Yet who employs local staff and pays rates?

We likewise need to protect local traders along with our culture and hospitality trade.