Having lived in St Albans since 1975 I have witnessed many changes to this historical and frankly suffocating satellite town.
We have no cinema and more importantly no hospital, courtesy of 52 years of Conservative local government.
We do have lots of pubs though: you can either drink with nauseating morris dancing CAMRA members or with drunken, violent polo-shirts and their vacuous harridens.
You have to be careful if you’re black or gay or look a bit weird though, because the lace curtains will be twitching and we don’t like strangers who talk funny and might damage our big cars (and smell of garlic).
‘MUSEUM OF BREAD’
I’ve got to agree about St Albans. The alternative community, if that’s not too nauseating a phrase, could pretty much all fit into one house. Which they often did. However, me and all my friends left all in one go as soon as we could afford it and moved onto more exciting locations.
I would like to make special mention of a few stalwarts who flicked the ear of mediocrity whilst I lived there – particularly a couple called Dave and Dawn, who were both fine art students. Their house was blessed, as a former shop, with a large display window, into which Dave and Dawn would place a different installation every month or so. Their supreme triumph was the ‘museum of bread’ , a display which featured dozens of different kinds of bread, rolls, toast and other dough-based products, all neatly labelled and artfully displayed.
So successful were their efforts that soon after they put this wheeze up, they began receiving mail addressed to the ‘museum’ and regularly turned away disappointed visitors who wanted to see the ‘rest of the collection’.
Idler roving reporter goes to St Albans
So, maybe it was a bit unfair of The Idler to give St
Albans such big billing in its Crap Towns section.
After all, it�s an undeniably attractive place and is
probably great for most of its residents.
However, while the reality of life in St Albans is
nothing like as horrific as suggested in the accounts
in The Idler (which are obviously exaggerated for
humour), I stand by most of the essential criticisms
It�s definitely a lovely place to visit. I had a fine
day walking round Verulamium Park and visiting the
Roman museum. I also liked the Bee-hive and particularly admired the fact that it�s got a table-tennis table in the garden (such a great idea, and so rarely done!).
However, visiting a town and living there are
completely different experiences � and there were
plenty of things that would put me off the latter. for
instance, there were more lace curtains than anywhere
I�ve been in my life. I found it quite unsettling; it
surely suggests something ominous. The Porsche per
capita count is also disturbingly high � what are they
all compensating for?
And, most noticeably, – Bee Hive aside – there didn�t
look like there was much for anyone under 30. While
drunk teenagers didn�t exactly “pave the streets” as
it says in The Idler, there were loads of bored
looking youths hanging around. The thing that
confirmed it for me was going to the party in the park
with Aaron. It was fantastic � and made all the more
enjoyable by the setting � but I lost count of the
number of people I heard saying that they couldn�t
believe that kind of thing was happening in St Albans.
Everyone was surprised by how much fun they were
having there � and that can�t be a good sign.
Still, it�s easier to get to the centre of London than
it is from most places outside Zone 2 on the tube map
� and having lived in Tooting for a year, I know which
I�d prefer: St Albans, it�s crap, but it�s nice.
From The St Albans Observer
By Aaron Batemen
If the town you had lived in most of your life
was suddenly and ignominiously decried as ‘crap’ you would expect to feel a rising swell of indignation and resolve to prove the ingrates wrong.
But when last week I discovered St Albans’ nomination in The Idler magazine’s infamous Crap Map my first reaction was not to scream and shout but to nod my head and chuckle in recognition at some of the complainant’s grievances.
For those of you who don’t know it, The Idler’s Crap Map is a list of reader-nominated towns which are routinely and somewhat uniformly lambasted as dull, insufferable little settlements which seemingly exist only to squeeze the life out of their younger residents.
Any readers under 30 will, I’m sure, have just shuddered in
recognition at the above sentence, but it still won’t do to have other people mouthing off about my town’s deficiencies – that’s my job.
Although it’s not The Idler lampooning St Albans, but people who actually live or have lived here, when I got a call from a member of staff at the London-based magazine offering to pay us a visit, I knew that I would be determined to show him St Albans was actually a thriving city which does not
leave its youth forming an orderly queue for the scaffold.
Thank God then for GetUptoGetDown in the Big Top on Saturday evening. Promoter Hansi Koppe’s occasional fandango at The Horn was transplanted to the specially erected marquee in Verulamium Park as part of the St Albans Festival and was an unqualified success.
Having spent the day showing off St Albans’ merits to Mr Idler, namely Verulamium Museum and my front room, I felt I needed a big finish to prove once and for all that St Albans was a cool place and I got it.
The �14 entry fee to the event was a bit steep but it’s not every day you get to party in such idyllic surroundings. With the sun setting over the lake in majestic fashion we sat just
Outside the entrance to the Big Top enjoying a cold beer and listening to DJ Seen warm up the crowd with a finely crafted set of laid back breaks and beats. Even better was to come, with a great set from Hansi, who played as well as I’ve ever seen him.
As darkness fell and I surveyed the scene before me I realised the incongruity of several hundred revellers dancing for their lives where normally there would be nothing more strenuous than the odd dog-walker pooper-scooping.
The energy in the Big Top was frenzied by now, with the youth of St Albans relishing their chance to unleash their party spirits. The five-deck mixing of The Drunken Allstars, a threesome who are surely destined for bigger things, was the perfect warm-up for the main event � an hour of mixing genius from the Freestylers.
Mr Idler had long since departed for the last train home to London and so missed the highlight of the night, specifically me dancing. But, by then, I think he’d seen that St Albans is a gem of a place.
Future organisers of the St Albans Festival should take note and make sureGetUpToGetDown is top of next 2004′s agenda.
Young people here feel let down that there is so little for them to do. Something good happened on Saturday night. Don’t take it away.