Editor’s comment March 2015

Eye sore? Or just a sign that the Cotswolds isn't a museum? / Photo: Amy Willis

Eye sore? Or just a sign that the Cotswolds isn't a museum? / Photo: Amy Willis - Credit: Archant

Cotswold Life’s editor Mike Lowe explains how a car spoiling the view in the Cotswolds caused a minor upset on social media, and why a raunchy lingerie shop popping up in Painswick also caused a stir.

Mike Lowe

Mike Lowe - Credit: Archant

How news works, Part 1: Back in October last year, a local photographer tweeted a picture of Bibury’s iconic Arlington Row in which the presence of a small yellow car ‘spoiled’ what would otherwise have been a classic Cotswolds photograph. What must all those happy-snappy tourists who descend on the village by the bus-load have thought of this unwelcome presence in their usual photo opportunity?

In January, it was tweeted again, and this time the world and his wife were soon to hear about this automotive aberration. First the local press picked up on the story, then the regional press agencies passed it on to the national newspapers, then it went ‘viral’ on the interweb, and finally the local BBC TV got round to running it. At one point, the Yellow Car of Bibury was the lead item on the Daily Mail’s notorious website, an honour usually reserved for half-naked Hollywood stars or unemployed Romanian immigrants with 17 children, a flat screen television (what other sort is there these days?), a 40-a-day cigarette habit and a brand new people carrier on the driveway.

The general reaction to this tale was one of disapproval. How dare this driver dump his ugly little intrusive vehicle where it would spoil the view of a million Japanese tourists? Don’t they know that we rely on those visitors to keep many local businesses going? But hang on a minute. Further investigation reveals that the car, a Vauxhall Corsa, is owned by 82-year-old Peter Maddox, who parks it outside his house, and has done for the past 18 months, because he has nowhere else to put it – no garage, no discreetly hidden parking bay. So what is he supposed to do?

Do we really expect this poor bloke to park his car half a mile away on the main road just to appease the tourists? While we trade on the beauty of our surroundings, the Cotswolds is not some kind of a museum. We live and work here, and I’m afraid our visitors, as welcome as they are, will just have to put up with that.

How news works, Part 2: The Cotswolds also made the national news in January when a story emerged claiming that locals in Painswick were up in arms over the sudden appearance of a raunchy lingerie shop on their High Street. The ‘shop’ turned out to be a film set created by the producers of a TV adaptation of JK Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy, which is currently on our screens.

Now call me a cynic, but something didn’t smell right about this admittedly entertaining tale. First of all, the filming of the shop had taken place for a couple of days in August – why should it suddenly make news in January just before the series aired? Secondly, the story first appeared on a BBC website, a source not renowned for breaking news, before being picked up by the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Finally, Painswick doesn’t seem to be an easily-offended place, being home to the brilliant Art Couture festival which not so long ago witnessed the marvellous Keith Allen parading through the town in just his underpants.

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So who had actually complained? Well after a bit of digging, the best ‘evidence’ I could find was one unattributable anonymous telephone call to the Parish Council. Most mysterious.

Call me a cynic a second time, but I reckon we’ve all been had over here by the BBC’s publicity department.