Susan Morrison: Stalin’s centre at death’s door

The St James Centre in its 1985 heyday which would even give Josef Stalin nightmares. Picture: TSPL
The St James Centre in its 1985 heyday which would even give Josef Stalin nightmares. Picture: TSPL
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The St James Centre, sitting up there are the top of the Walk brooding like a retail version of Castle Grayskull, has never really been loved.

Back in the 1980s it looked even worse. Before John Lewis added its extension, it looked like a shopping centre designed by Stalin. At least the new addition had windows, but it also had that incredibly sensitive revolving door which had some sort of entrance policy like an over-enthusiastic bouncer.

Why, that door could just stop on a whim, trapping at least one yummy mummy with a double buggy, three giggling teens and a dozen tourists speaking at least ten languages, which meant the instructions shouted through the glass to get away from the sensors began to look like an episode of The Crystal Maze.

People were forever trying to squeeze in at the last minute, which tripped the mechanism to stop the majestic sweep of the door. The reason for this, of course, was to prevent people being cut in half by what was basically a giant scythe, splattering blood and guts all over the shop, which would never do for John Lewis. Personally, I figure if you are in such a rush for the Clinique Bonus Offer that you’ll risk your life playing Revolving Door Chicken with approximately half a tonne of slow moving but relentless glass and steel, then game on, amigo.

It was a bit of a pain, but it was an easy way to buck up your day when you realised you had outwitted the door with the timing of Astaire, and shimmied past the sensors with the sinuous flow of the Connery-era Bond infiltrating Blofeld’s lair.

Even the ugliest of buildings usually have something to commend them, I suppose, including the St James Centre. It may just be personal memories of toddlers learning to walk on rainy Sundays, or in the case of my son, screaming the place down when he realised he was being taking into a shop that was not the Early Learning Centre.

The bulldozers will move in at the start of May, they tell us, and the way will become clear for another new “bright and bold” retail experience.

I have a horrible feeling that they probably used those words to describe the original back in the 60s, and they didn’t even have what looks suspiciously like a giant doggie doo-doo in the middle of it.