Friday, 1 May 2009

Going local in... Deptford?

It seems the world at large isn't ready for trips to all corners of London's South East. Benji Lanyado caused quite a storm following his latest New York Times piece, which tipped visiting Deptford and New Cross.

The Mail
, The Mirror and The Telegraph were up in arms at the idea. "When the article says the area has 'an edge', the first thought of many was that it meant a knife edge," said the ever-one-sided Mail.

One thing I hate in travel is scaremongering. The papers made it sound like people don't walk the streets for fear of a drive-by shooting.

Whether or not it's worth a visit depends on your approach to travel. No, it's not an area for tick-box sights, but it is a good place to catch a gig, see another side of London, and maybe get an advanced preview of what, like it or not, has been tipped as "the next Shoreditch". The type of readers tempted to take up Benji's advice are not going to be the ones fitting it in between Madam Tussauds and Tiger, Tiger. "Those with well-cushioned sensibilities need not make the journey," read the first paragraph.

But, as ever, The Mail wasn't going to stop spouting nonsense while it was ahead: "What was it about Deptford that caught the eye of one of the world's most influential papers? Here's a clue. The author comes from South-East London." I'm not sure what their point is here. To me, that sounds like a local likely to be ahead of the game. Usually by the time an overseas reports get to a place, they're well behind the times. (See the Wall Street Journal - which recently discovered the "lesser-known" neighbourhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires.)

It seems to me that the problem was less about the travel tips and more about the newspaper. "The New York Times! That's for Americans! Americans only like escorted tour-group holidays with all-you-can-eat buffets! They are bound to get mugged!"

The question is who should be more offended by this coverage: the dumb-ass Americans or the slum-dwelling south-east Londoners?

Photo: The Ben Pimlott building, Goldsmith's College, Flickr, Andy Roberts