Sainsbury’s lack of taste
Sainsbury’s saccharine Christmas truce advert is indeed a moving and cynical channelling of emotion and remembrance, towards buying groceries from a particular supermarket. It is slick, manipulative, artful film making – and also a tawdry, tasteless and inappropriate use of the sacrifices and memories of the First World War. It is commerce going where it oughtn’t – it is war profiteering, which touches a nerve, then as now. Do Sainsbury’s feel they can get away with it, because their partnership with The Royal British Legion makes them “bullet-proof to criticism”? (1) Using war and suffering in this way degrades society, as discussed on The Moral Maze (2). This much is subjective talk and opinion about part of Sainsbury’s Christmas sales campaign.
Sainsbury’s staggering hypocrisy
Meanwhile, the company have spent thousands of pounds and long planned to bulldoze Bristol’s war memorial sports ground. So Sainsbury’s is rightly accused of double standards, of duplicity, of ‘blatant’ hypocrisy. (3) Their advert about the Christmas truce football game helps to sell their groceries; while the memorial to Bristol’s rugby footballers is be destroyed by them. Every time the advert is shown we will remember how Sainsbury’s REALLY respect the fallen. If Sainsbury’s and their partners Bristol Rovers FC and UWE were to persist with their disrespectful demolition plans, further reputational damage is likely, every time the words Sainsbury’s or Bristol Rovers or UWE are mentioned.
Sainsbury’s sop – a “public square”
The article by Nicholas Hellen (4), published in The Sunday Times on 16 November, includes this: “Sainsbury’s said: ‘We absolutely refute we are operating double standards. We recognise that the site has historical importance, which is why our plans preserve the memorial stone and create a public square dedicated to the memory of former Bristol rugby players.’” (my italics).
This “public square” would be about 14 metres by 14 metres, less than the size of a tennis court!
Sainsbury’s architects’ plans call this public square a “plaza” or a Memorial Garden. The plaza would be a paved area around the metal gates (bearing the words BRISTOL RUGBY MEMORIAL GROUND along the top) and the inscribed gate pier (which Sainsbury’s call the ‘memorial stone’). The remaining approximately 3.3 hectares would be cleared of sports facilities, so that they can build their superstore on the site.
The pier is inscribed “THIS GROUND IS A MEMORIAL” not “THIS GROUND IS ANY OLD BROWN FIELD SITE FOR THE USE OF PROPERTY SPECULATORS”.
The tiny proposed Memorial Garden would be a pathetic token remnant, a sop – and a travesty. Building a shop on a war memorial is simply wrong. Sainsbury’s, and others, have also misunderstood the genius of the place. The essence and effectiveness of the war memorial sports ground is that it is a living sports ground. If this is how Sainsbury’s ‘recognise that the site has historical importance’, how I wonder would not recognising it look like?
The Christmas truce advert can be regarded as a damage exacerbation exercise – and as much a blunder as the ongoing disrespectful plan by Sainsbury’s, Rovers and UWE to desecrate Bristol’s famous war memorial sports ground. The ad was first shown in the evening of Wednesday 12 November. Coincidentally, the same Wednesday as Sainsbury’s announced their Strategic Review – and the same Wednesday a planning application to extend delivery hours at the proposed store came to be decided upon by a Bristol City Council planning committee.
At this committee meeting, an outrage was perpetrated on the people of Bristol: Sainsbury’s were given permission to drive 44 ton delivery juggernauts down residential streets for 19 hours a day, every day. How did this nonsense happen? This tragicomical committee meeting, seemingly modelled on the court case in Alice in Wonderland, was grossly flawed. (See note 5) Nevertheless, the boards of Rovers and Sainsbury’s got what they wanted from a hapless council, which may now face various legal challenges. Oh, and a dire precedent was set for very long, sleep disturbing, supermarket delivery hours elsewhere in the city and country. Bravo Bristol.
The controversy has led to Sainsbury’s confirming their intention to build Sainsbury’s Horfield, which would be a gold-mine for them. Meanwhile, the company is apparently in a legal dispute with their partner Bristol Rovers FC over possible compensation should they fail to complete their contract with them. The restrictive covenant on the land has yet to be tested; in any case it may well reduce the value of land that can be used only for sport or recreation. Forget housing too – ‘housing’ has already had its slice of the asset, in the form of Trubshaw Close – nodded through on the understanding that this would save the remainder of the sports ground war memorial.
Many in Bristol now dream of a better future for the site than a bogus Memorial Supermarket or other unsuitable use – which would benefit property speculators on the board of Rovers FC, and their shareholders (6). A contrite Sainsbury’s might contribute substantially to the rebuilding of the Memorial Stadium. Government money is available for war memorial restoration. A public appeal could raise funds for a revamped stadium, echoing how the facilities were paid for back in the 1920s. The Memorial Ground could be used by Bristol Rovers FC – and/or as a community sport or recreation ground. Joined up thinking by the Mayor, during the obesity crisis, could promote an existing place of exercise and sport in a densely populated residential area. Local residents could be involved in a discussion, rather than being imposed upon, their concerns either ignored or dismissed as nimbyisms. Could we all not come up with something fitting and sporting and respectful for the Memorial Ground, for the playable city, for the European Green Capital 2015, and for the centenary years of the Great War?
For now, please sign the petition NO SAINSBURY’S ON BRISTOL WAR MEMORIAL www.tinyurl.com/savethemem.
Notes and links
Supermarket Christmas campaigns: This means war!
Sainsbury’s Christmas ad is a dangerous and disrespectful masterpiece
The Moral Limits of Advertising. Moral Maze, BBC Radio 4, 19 November 2014.
Sainsbury’s Christmas advert recreates first world war truce
How Sainsbury’s Ruined Christmas
Sainsbury’s branded ‘hypocritical’ over plans to demolish war memorial to build superstore while using WWI football truce story for Christmas advert
‘Hypocritical’ Sainsbury’s TV ad accused of exploiting emotions of WWI while supermarket plans to bulldoze war memorial in Bristol
People Are Mad At “Hypocritical” Sainsbury’s For Planning To Demolish A WWI Memorial Site
‘Hypocritical’ Sainsbury’s in plan to bulldoze war memorial stadium
Nicholas Hellen in The Sunday Times, 16 November 2014, page 4.
For more on the egregious failings of the Bristol City Council, please see the report at: Traders and Residents Against Sainsbury’s Horfield (TRASHorfield)
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