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Culture House Daily

Estate agents, Elton John, and free champagne – this is how you build a thriving community

1 May 2014

10:30 PM

1 May 2014

10:30 PM

To impress prospective homeowners most estate agents usually draw the line at getting their teeth whitened and buying the second cheapest suit Top Man has to offer. The people flogging flats and houses on the site of Battersea Power Station made a bit of extra effort last night by putting on a lavish bash, with a headline performance from Elton John, for those interested in, and rich enough, to live in the shadows cast by London’s most famous chimneys.

Or as a spokesman for the Battersea Development Company, the good people behind the massive redevelopment of the dilapidated site, put it, this was a party for ‘the purchasers of homes, potential retail and office occupiers, and stakeholders from the surrounding area’. Oh, and top-notch celebs like Tom Daley, whatshername out of Texas, and England cricket flop Chris Tremlett.

Also, amid the stakeholders, celebrities and blaggers (like me), mingled a load of sales reps, in fetching Team Battersea body warmers, to really help the party go with a swing (the one I spoke to gave a half-hearted pitch about the new development then complained how long she was having to queue for food).

[Alt-Text]


Battersea Development Company say it’s ‘developing a community’, and as I noted the aspirational slogans on the temporary walls around the building site (‘Place Matters’, ‘No Default’, ‘Live Original’), the lip service being paid to charity (a raffle with the numbers plucked out by rising pop star Tom Odell!), and the mass of people elbowing each other out the way to get hold of free champagne, I couldn’t help but think this was the purest vision of Dave Cameron’s big society yet to be road-tested.

And then, there was Elton John. In a marquee with a transparent roof right in the middle of the power station, big Elt warbled his way through his occasionally enjoyable, often pretty dull show tunes with about as much passion for the job at hand as a BT broadband installer. Still, most of the crowd seemed to enjoy the show. Will Young, standing just ahead of me in a nice red hat, was loving it. And it’s always a pleasure to hear Tiny Dancer – though I fear a cameraman might just have caught me singing along.

There was some speculation ahead of the gig about how much Elton was trousering to entertain us. At one point he spoke to the crowd and it seemed like he was about to let us all in on an exclusive. ‘I wouldn’t be here tonight if it wasn’t for…’ I was hoping the sentence would finish, ‘if it wasn’t for the fact I’m being paid the equivalent of the national debt of Liberia’. Instead he just introduced the next tune, ‘Your Song’ (‘I’d buy a big house…’), and the crowd went wild.

I drifted off home before a light show brought proceedings to a close. As I left, I walked past one partygoer taking a photo of his pint. I felt proud to be part of such a thriving new community. This is going to be an annual event, apparently. I’m looking forward to next year already.

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