A sea of scantily-clad Lady Gagas swarmed through Westminster yesterday, resplendent with strange hats, multi-coloured hair, impossibly-stacked shoes and the odd flailing Kermit the Frog dress.
There was a veritable army of lookalikes of pop’s peculiar princess marching towards Parliament on Monday morning – but why?
The Gagas were protesting about redevelopment plans for Smithfield Market, which may be about to transformed into a major new retail and office site.
So the Gagas marched with the banner: “YOU’D HAVE TO BE GAGA TO RIP THE HEART OUT OF SMITHFIELD”.
As PR stunts go, yesterday’s demo was pretty tenuously linked to the message it was trying to convey.
But we think it’s an important issue for London to be aware of, so we’re covering it anyway (and it that respect, the stunt has at least worked).
What’s happening with Smithfield Market?
The Lady Gaga protest yesterday was being held against a new plan for Smithfield put forward by Henderson Global Investors.
The plan is to demolish 75% of the buildings above ground on the site, which has a 1,000-year market trading history, including the partial demolition of Sir Horace Jones’s original domed structure which has become so iconic in the area. (He’s the same architect who designed Tower Bridge, FYI.)
A £160m office and retail complex will be erected in its place, under Henderson Global Investors’ plan.
And the plan is being supported by the City of London Corporation, but opposed by Alan Bennett, Kristin Scott Thomas, and restaurateurs Mark Hix and Fergus Henderson.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles will decide whether to approve Henderson Global Investors’ redevelopment plan in August.
The Gagas were marching yesterday in favour of an alternative development plan put forward by the SAVE Campaign, the Victorian Society and market specialist Urban Space Management (USM), supported by Cathedral Group plc.
This group’s plan is to create “a viable and highly-profitable development scheme that would save the beautiful architecture and restore the historic general market buildings, bringing them back to life with a rich mix of market, restaurants, event spaces and quirky office space”.
But the debate over Smithfield is not quite as straightforward as it seems.
Henderson Global Investors’ plan is, in fact, supported by English Heritage, and the architect hired – John McAslan and Partners – is the same one that recreated King’s Cross station with much-feted sensitivity.
If you’re interested in finding out more, then this comment piece by Rowan Moore gives an insightful overview of the complexities of the debate.