If there is one thing I really dislike about going on holiday abroad, it’s chain brands ruining the foreign street line. I go abroad to escape everything that is a part of my English routine. But it’s easy to forget how global and faceless branding is. In Malta I was mortified to find a ‘Claire’s Accessories’. And every time I see a McDonalds I rage. I don’t know what else I should expect.
And now Venice has a ‘Spar’ in the Cannaregio district – called a ‘Despar‘. It’s been housed in a beautiful theatre. I was particularly disappointed because Spar isn’t even a great supermarket here in the UK. It certainly isn’t in keeping with the beauty of its surroundings.
I make a point of avoiding anything which doesn’t appear to me to be ‘Venice local’. I am not a tourist who wants the familiarity of home. I don’t even want to be a tourist. And now, being acutely aware of the fragility of Venice’s homegrown artisan economy, it makes me want to dig my heels in even more.
I understand it because here in the UK we have the same problem (doesn’t anywhere?) and I am a part of the ‘Made in the UK’ and ‘Made in Manchester’ movement. I run my own business. I have everything to play for.
It’s something I am very proud of – standing up for locally produced and ethical and sustainable. Venice is only trying to do what we already do here. And I don’t doubt it’s been fighting it as long as we have too. These are some of the parallels between Venice and Manchester. They both have lots of homegrown talent. They both have strong identities. And they both want to protect them. Equally they are both fighting ever expansive erosion by big brands.
So for me, it’s not just about my tenuous links to Venice (I don’t yet feel I have the right to be passionately defensive from a native standpoint) but I do get it. I am not Manchester born or bred either. I come from the South of England originally. I’ve been in Manchester for two years. But I am fiercely protective of what it represents. I may not live in Venice (yet) but I don’t see the harm in being protective of and supporting somewhere I feel emotionally connected to and something I believe in and something I think is worth defending and supporting.