The headline says: “A new York state of mind”. This suggests that The Guardian still employs at least a few sub-editors who can spin a song title into a headline. Billy Joel in this case, with the demotion of one upper-case ‘N’ doing the job nicely.
The inky version of Tony Naylor’s feature about York’s “vibrant arts, music, food and bar scene” appeared on Saturday, but it was being widely shared online for a few days before that.
I was thinking about this article as I went for a soggy run this morning. My route began like this: into town and down Micklegate, over the river, along Shambles, Petergate and to York Art Gallery, where I spotted the entrance to the Christmas fair or whatever it is in Museum Gardens behind the gallery.
I ran along the side of the building to discover the usual collection of tasteful sheds set up for selling food. Many more of these festive huts have appeared in the middle of York already – all this and we’re not yet out of November.
As I carried on through Museum Gardens, blissfully empty so early, I thought about how York has changed since we arrived in 1988. Just about nothing mentioned in that Guardian feature was here back then, when York was different to now. In those days, Micklegate was the chosen location for an old-fashioned piss-up; nowadays the whole of central York seems to be dedicated that that pastime, which is progress of sorts.
That lovely, tippling street contains some of the attractions Tony Naylor mentions, including Skosh and The Falcon Tap. Oddly, there is no mention for Rattle Owl, a great restaurant, but then these exercises can never please anyone; no mention, either, for Brigantes, where the beer is always good.
Based on nearly 30 years of living here, I’d say York is livelier, more interesting, culturally richer than it was back then. People who have lived here for ever may disagree. Progress doesn’t happen without something being lost along the way; but lack of progress is another sort of loss anyway.
Progress often comes in a trendy wrapping, and sometimes people scowl at that trendiness, or they moan – as many have done in York – about old shipping containers being turned into a food court. Yet any city needs such new ideas, and other towns and cities have got in there first.
My blog about what York could learn from Altrincham Market – a fabulous foodie haven – was read by more people than just about any other. This suggests that people are interested in such modern foodie developments; either that or they’re irritated and want to scratch that rash.
All the trendiness reinvigorates a city, and even somewhere as fine as York needs rejuvenating occasionally. True, the downside is that house prices rise and then the same young people running these new foodie places, or visiting them, can’t afford anywhere to live. But progress is always a paradox.
Same but different – that’s York now compared with 1988. The timeless essence of the city is the same, but it seems more modern, too. And that suits this ageing incomer very nicely.
Tony Naylor is a northern-based writer and he knows his York, although his list is almost exclusively devoted to newness – which was the point, I guess. Top marks for including Los Moros, the fantastic street-food stall in Shambles Market – one of the best meals to be had anywhere for seven quid.
Naylor ends with Brew York – which he says makes up for the lack of “hip, innovative breweries” in York. Old-style York would have shrugged off the thought of anything hip and innovative, and maybe some still do. But Brew York is a true modern marvel of York, making many styles of beer, all of them great. And the riverside warehouse is a smart location, if sometimes chilly.
Good, as well, to see a a reference to my old colleague Gavin Aitchison, onetime Pints of View regular on the Press, who shares his enthusiasm for Pivni near the market. And pleasing, too, to see innovative gallery According To McGee in there. But no mention for the much-improved York Art Gallery. Yes, you do have to pay to get in nowadays – and boo to that, even though I just renewed my annual ‘ticket’ – but it’s now a world-class location.
Such are my thoughts as I head west to the outer reaches of this city I am happy to have adopted. Mind you, there’s nothing trendy round here yet. Perhaps the hip contagion takes a while to travel from the centre.