August 2017

Fab for the High StreetFab for the High Street

The paradigm for the perfect pop group, according to music journalist Paul Lester, is still The Beatles: "You need the streetwise intellectual one (John), the softer, more reflective one (Paul), the quiet, experimental one (George) and the goofy, down-to-earth one (Ringo)." If there's a formula for the ideal band, is there one for the ideal high street? The perfect mix of shops is what's needed: the serious ones (banks and estate agents), the functional ones (butchers and bakers), the creative ones (florists and jewellers) and the relaxing ones (coffee shops and pubs). But how many of each?

In the media world, finding a recipe for perfection has been the holy grail for many writers and creators. From sitcoms to adverts and news headlines, applying a proven formula can ensure you create an Only Fools and Horses and not a Big Top, produce a Diet Coke break and leave Barry Scott on the cutting room floor, or write a catchy "I've been Edam fool" (The Sun, 10 January 2012; referring to Antony Worrall Thompson's cheese theft) and avoid an "Enemies of the people" (Daily Mail, 4 November 2016; referring to the judges who ruled the government required parliamentary consent to give notice of Brexit).

Sitcom formulas are well documented. Take the right character – who usually needs a basic personality flaw – a catchphrase, some conflict with people who make them cross and a catastrophe or two to overcome, and you have a recipe for hilarity. If only high street formulas were as easy to calculate, let alone control. It may be hard to replicate Del Boy and Rodney, but it's harder still to script the future of Wanstead's 100-plus High Street businesses and their individual plans within the community. So without a script, our High Street must ad-lib its way to good fortune, and as the supporting cast, we all need to give our best performance. Then, perhaps this time next year, we'll be millionaires.