Sunday, 13 October 2019

I’M GIVING UP ON TRYING TO SELL YOU THINGS THAT YOU AIN’T BUYING [202]




A direct link to the video is here:

Below is the script for the video: 

Hello there, this is Leigh Spence is Dancing with the Gatekeepers, I’m Leigh Spence, and this is Fratton Road, one of the main shopping streets in Portsmouth, on a rainy, windy morning in October 2019 - my umbrella had already broken by this point. It was quite early, and most shops hadn’t opened yet. This video will look around a shopping mall I made a video about two years ago, mostly because I kept getting requests to film an update, and because people like watching videos about dead malls over videos about calculators. 


Incidentally, my video about the INTERESTING HP-12C calculator is available on this channel.


Fratton Road is receiving money from a Government fund to revitalise high streets, provide better transport links, and find new uses for vacant buildings. However, I don’t see much of a future for the former Troxy cinema, a building so derelict that the porthole windows have been filled in with deckchairs.


Anyway, in July 2017, I made a video about The Bridge Shopping Centre, a mall I knew was pretty empty, left acting as a, well, bridge, between Fratton Road and the giant Asda supermarket. And when I say giant, I do mean giant. A Co-Op department store used to stand on this site, before the Co-Op replaced it with a more modern supermarket and shopping mall, opening in 1989. Asda took over both in 2001. I really do like this travelling shot, so I’ll just keep it going a bit longer.


Asda continue to own The Bridge, but apart from it acting as another entrance for themselves, the feeling I got two years ago was that the mall was done, the bigger brands having moved on, or gone out of business themselves. Sure, some stores were left, but even they couldn’t last much longer. I wish they would put back the neon sign they used to have outside.


Here is some of the original video I shot two years ago. According to the foundation stone, this mall was built back when people still made time capsules.


I believe the pet shop closed about a year later. Fashion stores that used to be on the left-hand side were Select, New Look and Ethel Austin. The jewellery store has seemingly always been here. You will find I like the red tiling and glass roof in this place, very Eighties indeed. The Savers chain of budget health stores is owned by Superdrug, and that store used to be a Superdrug. The flickering light suggests some level of decline, but the place was still kept clean. This central platform was used as seating for the café, last known as Rebecca’s Pantry. When the Co-Op was here they also had a travel agent and a shoe shop, Shoefayre, in the mall. You do get the feeling that, if the café had remained open, this place wouldn’t feel half as dead. I don’t know why I didn’t go through these barriers, only myself was there to stop me. And there is the entrance to Asda.


Back to October 2019, and not much has changed outside, apart from the weather. There is a new tenant on the right, Cubano Beach Club, which hosts children’s birthday parties and other events.


Making my way across the road, I see a new games arcade, including virtual reality and escape rooms, both growing areas at the moment. The pet shop has a replacement too. Like I said, I wish they would put the neon back.


The automatic doors have obviously seen me coming today. I’m still coming in... and in we go. There isn’t much difference to begin, except for more signs. The time capsule is obviously still there. If you want to rent this space, ring the number on your screen. They were playing music in here two years ago, but I’ve never heard it this loud – perhaps they’ve bought new speakers. The jewellers, will always be there. Ethel Austin closed down in 2006, by the way.


Now this is something I wish happened more often – using vacant store space for showing art works, like this former New Look store. This one here is provided by the Aspex gallery in Portsmouth, and was made by an established artist along with local residents. Here is display on the store front, and you can visit the gallery’s website for more information.


Savers and Iceland will always be here, by the looks of things. This former charity shop is now being used to sell home brewing kits. They’ve also fixed the light. The travel agent is now a beauty store – “People will stare, make it worth their while.” And, crucially, the café is back open, which gave the mall its atmosphere back, and is enticing more businesses to set up here again. The former Asda photo store is now operated by Max Spielmann, with a Timpsons sharing the space. An Olan Mills studio once operated in the mall, if anyone remembers them. Asda have also opened an opticians next to the post office.


Yes, there is still space to fill, but there is more hope now than there was two years ago. It’s a good place to come in, not least to keep you out of the rain. Give it another two years, and The Bridge may have left its dead mall past far behind.


Thank you for watching. As ever, the nostalgia culture crisis continues at www.dancingwiththegatekeepers.com .

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