China’s Fake Britain

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Words by Billie Jenkins Above Image by Madeliene Kessler

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. The £500 million imitation British town, complete with small scale gothic cathedral, red telephone boxes and statues of english heroes such as James Bond and Winston Churchhill, is an example of that. Small scale projects, such as Japan’s miniature Austrian town, are weird but ultimately a theme park with none of the nausea or queuing. The odd catch about Thames Town is that there aren’t any tourist attractions apart from the fact it’s proper British looking. Rather a novelty to be dipped into at weekends and school holidays, the area actually contains hundreds of houses that are genuinely intended to provide legitimate living spaces for a Shanghai bursting with inhabitants at the seams.

Shop fronts reading ’The Fish Bar’ and ’Mike’s Records’ prove to be empty shells, which in a way does represent the current British high street, but also makes the it seem like living there would be like injecting yourself purposefully into the The Village in The Prisoner. It’s bit like if Harry Potter World shut the majority of Diagon Alley shops but insisted on renting out bedsits above them. Although over 75% of the units have sold since it’s creation from scratch in 2006, yet nearly all snapped up for investment purposes, creating a vast and empty ghost ghost town with only the odd replica of a Queens Guard pottering around. The fate of the huge town so far has been to be used for (definitely not tacky) wedding photos. One of an intended nine replica cities we can’t help but think the whole situation is a little bizarre. Paul Rice, a consulting architect on the project, offers a wholly unconvincing statements in dismissal of the claims it is merely a theme park, stating “Disneyland is a dangerous term to use. This is intended as a real town. Thames Town is organic and natural and this project was a chance to build something unique”. With fake shop fronts and the paint already peeling off the cathedral stone we’re not convinced.

 

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