I'm disappointed in myself that as I have written it, Westfield features in the top 5 of my "All the small things...", I like about living in Shepherd's Bush, as it certainly doesn't in terms of preference. However if you consider it probably geographically covers 1/5th of the area called Shepherd's Bush and has been responsible for a great deal of change (for the better?) in the last few years it is perhaps deserved that I acknowledge it sooner rather than later.
Just over three years ago when I first told my Mum I was moving to Shepherd's Bush her first comment was about Westfield: "Isn't that where they're building that new shopping centre? Hmmm, the biggest one in the UK won't it be? Funny that." she said accusingly. Yes mother, as if I'm going to choose to double my rent payments, in a new and dubious part of town with a random (yet turned out to be brilliantly so) girl just because of a shopping centre that was then a year away from being built. As if. Though, actually Mum it's the biggest indoor inner city shopping in Europe.
Well, it wasn't the only reason.
So a year and a half on from being opened by oddest of couples Leona Lewis and Boris Johnson (shudder) and I'm not in love with Westfield, I will be honest about that. I will explain this in terms of clothes shopping as that's what I have the most experience of there (though a young man in Jessops was very helpful the other day and indeed the HMV is pretty good). I love high fashion (in my flatmate's Vogue) and I like high street fashion (in my flatmate's wardrobe) and I do really enjoy shopping (not with my flatmate's money) but as I grow older I am disillusioned with the morals, the overpricing and the lack of originality to be found in your average high street shop. As I have previously blogged about I am borderline obsessed with charity shops, am belatedly falling for a select few vintage shops and am bravely if somewhat haphazardly experimenting making my own clothes. All of these approaches to looking half decent excite me far more than shopping in Westfield - and I've tried and tested all many times, believe me (or my credit card statement).
With regard to what Westfield brings to Shepherd's Bush, it's certainly an odd juxtaposition. Quite literally. If you approach the Bush from the wrong (or right?) direction Westfield is all you see of Shepherd's Bush. When you stand outside poor defeated West 12 looking out over the Green it appears not dissimilar to an Indpendence Day-esque Mothership, threatening and overpowering. And yet the development has done wonders for local people (in terms of employment more than new shopping opportunities), local business and local transport. Though it annoys me the tube station STILL hasn't got wheelchair access nobody can deny that the new Underground and Overground stations are aesthetically sexy and an improvement on what was there before.
I also cannot deny that Westfield provides for a pleasant experience. There are funky comfortable-ish chairs dotted around for disheartened boyfriends, there are some of the best shopping mall cafes/restaurants you'll find anywhere (my favourite is Pho) and the toilets are nicer than the ones I have used in a BA First Class lounge. There is also free wi-fi, promotional events most days of the week and it's an excellent place for celeb spotting (Jarvis Cocker the other day - have only just recovered). Oh and you can also stand in queues for hours just to go into below average shops like Ugg or Hollister! Whoop whoop.
If you love shopping, it's impossible to hate Westfield, in fact about as impossible as it is to love it if you don't love shopping. But to go back to the subtext of my Mum's question: Is Westfield one of the main reasons I moved to Shepherd's Bush? And is it a reason why I continue to live here? Hell no. Certainly not. I have easily spent more time (and possibly more money) shopping in Shepherd's Bush charity shops than in Westfield. But that doesn't mean I won't happily nip over there on an evening to get emergency "Boots bits" or to meet my Westfield-virgin mates for a coffee or a cocktail after they've marvelled or moaned at how good/bad it is. Interesting how my "out of town" friends rock up to Westfield within a few months of it opening, yet were previously uninspired to head to W12 to see me. Hmmm. So thank you Westfield for maintaining a few of my friendships!
Simply put, Westfield is what it is and isn't going anywhere fast. I also don't think it really cares as long as people keep coming to spend their money there, which it appears they are doing. Let's also think back to pre-Westfield days: who would have thought ten years ago you could buy (real, not Shepherd's Bush Market knock off) Louis Vuitton or Jimmy Choos in W12? It's also a miracle it even got built as the company Westfield gets its name from is Australian and so it's likely most "planning" was done in the Walkabout on a Sunday night. Westfield is quite an achievement for the Bush! And for this reason, as well as the convenience and the excellent vietnamese noodles it has brought to my life, I have learnt to appreciate it as another wonderfully eccentric and contradiction-heavy part of living in Shepherd's Bush.