It’s got shopping, ice skating and a spectacular backdrop – so why does TikTok hate Battersea Power Station?

Posted by Emilie McMeekan in Comment

11 months ago

TikTok has the power to make or break songs, to launch a million dance moves, to make tiny frozen Chinese desserts must-haves, to send people anywhere. And when we say anywhere, we mean anywhere. The current platform hotspot is Wakefield Wines, in Wakefield – an off-licence that happens to be well-stocked in Prime, the drink launched by KSI and Logan Paul. 

Thanks to the enthusiasm of its owner Ameer Khan, “Wakey Wines” has become another TikTok trend, taking its place in the pantheon alongside Binley Mega Chippy and the Sheffield Spar on Bramall Lane. Where TikTok finds itself reluctant to send people though is Battersea Power Station – the recently opened shopping complex in South London that cost £9 billion and took ten years to develop. Open for a mere month, on TikTok Battersea Power Station has 19 million views. Which would be fine. Except WakeyWines has 158.6 million.

At first look, the shortfall is surprising given the amazing backdrop and vlogging opportunities – ice skating, chimney lifts, shopping. There are lifestyle TikTokkers giving their followers a tour of the boxfresh Zara which is the new London flagship. But a lot of the vlogging has an oddly stilted quality and a distinctly Fiat 500 Girl feel, sounding as hollow as the Station’s chimneys. Creators like Oli White and Jack Maynard have visited – but White is an investor in one of the restaurants in the area, Clean Kitchen, owned by his YouTube co-hort Mikey Pearce. This does nothing to reframe the whole project as just a vessel for capitalism.

It doesn’t help of course that we are at a critical economic juncture. A significant proportion of the shops in the Station are extremely high end (Rolex, Le Labo, Reformation), and a lot are still closed. Not only that, but there are currently only two food and drink places available in the gallery meaning the queues are outrageous as many videos are keen to point out, like this one

Also, TikTokkers commenting on posts about Battersea Power Station are not holding back. YEarchive wrote “Battersea power station has everything other than power” while another added “And Uniqlo…”. George Dunn says: “Imagine having this massive, beautiful space and putting a Zara in there lol.” Jay wrote: “In a global energy crisis and national emergency they opened a gentrified power station turned overpriced mall for the rich.” 

The project also attracted TikToker criticism last year when the developer dropped the percentage of affordable housing being built from 33% to 9% – activists like Jorjis Explains jumped on this immediately. On Instagram, Battersea Power Station has a parody meme account, written from the point of view of a resident wanting to escape the Power Station tourists – the tagline to the account “BPS – it’s a lifestyle”. 

Vloggers will continue to come, trying to whip up a frenzy for the dedicated lingerie department in Zara but the narrative of “haves versus haves not” is going to be hard to turn off. Without meaningful storytelling, the Power Station is getting none of the “TikTok Made Me Buy It” hype and long term, that’s a problem.

By Emilie McMeekan, features director of CORQ.