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I’ve been having a bit of a break from blogging, which to my dismay has led to a total flatline in blog views, so I’ve decided to bring up something that’s been irritating me for quite a while. It’s a bit of an epic too, because obviously more words mean I’ve made up for my silence over the past week or so!

I first noticed it a while back when I was doing some promotional work for O2, which frequently meant I didn’t get home from Perry Barr until about 7 at night. Taking the bus home to New Street, I noticed something. All the lights in the shop windows were on. All the lights in the Bullring were on. In fact, I think pretty much every light in the centre of Birmingham was on.

This led to a mild (ill-informed I must add) rant about eco groups and the Government being unfair for bullying normal people into turning off various appliances and using less electricity whilst corporate giants were gobbling up half the supply of Birmingham’s electricity every night.

Then I began writing for Birmingham Recycled, and got to grips with how people can save the planet by using energy saving lightbulbs, not buying anything new and generally making their lives a little bit more miserable. We’ve all got to change was the message, and it won’t necessarily be fun. Unless, of course, you have products to flog on the High Street.

I left this thought simmering until recently, when Katie Fox decided to cover the furore surrounding Easter Egg packaging. For those not in the know, this is basically people bullying easter egg manufacturers into ruining the joy of Easter for children by getting rid of all the fun packaging, without really acknowledging the fact that quite alot of other products, of which packaging isn’t part of the gift and are sold all year round, have alot of unnecessary packaging. But of course, that’s just my view, and I’m sure getting rid of plastic will save the planet in some form.

Nevertheless, it got me to thinking about those bloody lights again. Those bloody lights on in Zara, trying to flog some clothes to passers-by at 10 in the evening. Those passers-by who tend to be swigging White Lightning and pissing up walls. And those Bullring lights. Which don’t really serve any purpose as you can’t get into the Bullring to look at the tat in shop windows, and presumably are just on to make sure any ghosts that happen to be scared of the dark don’t get too spooked.

So I searched for debate. People must be talking about this I thought, someone must be questioning the fact that the Government is forcing people to place recycling in the right multi-coloured box, threatening normal folk with fines for not using those dim energy saving lightbulbs whilst all the while Birmingham New Street, and no doubt thousands of other High Streets across the country, are lit up like capitalist versions of Blackpool Illuminations, trying to sell crap to people who either aren’t there or are there but can’t actually go into the shop until the next day anyway.
Well actually, there was. In fact, it came from January this year on the BBC news website. It made my speculation of a capitalist conspiracy allowing shops to use all the energy they want by enforcing rules on the general populace seem rather silly as well. Apparently, a new scheme is coming in called the Carbon Reduction Commitment, which will force High Street retailers and Supermarkets to record their energy consumption and buy allowances for each tonne of carbon they emit.

There is also going to be a carbon emission league table of businesses, with the top businesses recieving financial rewards for their work in cutting carbon emissions and the bottom businesses recieving fines. A bit like football then.
So there you have it really. The joyful process of Journalism, where you think you have an original idea, only to be stumped by the BBC, the Government, and just about everyone else. Of course, this isn’t the end of the story though. How heavy are these fines? Are businesses going to be worried about the fine when the potential profit they make from the night-time shop window lighting (which, in all honesty, can’t be that much) may outweigh it? Surely giants such as Tesco won’t be too bothered by these fines when they make so much money anyway, enough to justify the fine at least?

In a local context, how are businesses in Birmingham going to react? As I insinuated, surely businesses like Zara are going to be able to pay for more ‘carbon tonnes’ than a small independant business? This in turn means Zara gets more ‘night time light’ publicity. Are the rewards going to justify smaller businesses losing this nighttime light, or is the commitment just punishing smaller businesses that can’t afford to subsidise their carbon emissions on top of their already massive energy bills?

Lots of questions, not many answers. I’ll keep an eye on the story between election developments. In the meantime, if anyone has any opinion, let me know.



  1. I totally agree with the rant Chris! I have noticed this since i was little, but on inquiring to my mother as to why towns and cities were lit up like Blackpool Illuminations, she answered that it was a ‘theft deterrent’!

    Aparently being able to easily spot a theif in the display window of Selfridges is enough of an excuse to leave ALL lights throught the store on! :-/



  2. Chris, if only you were in Brum, you could have taken part in the 4am Project and snapped all these shops with their lights on! As it is, other people’s photographs do highlight this issue if you want to look here:

  3. Also, I must apologise, I do read all your blogs but as I do it from Google Reader you don’t get the hits :p

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