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Just Janice: who needs real shops in an online world?

I’m looking for backers for my new business idea. It’s a company which hires out trustworthy people to come to your house while you’re out and perform a vital service.

Not cleaning or DIY. No, my staff will wait in, and take delivery of the many items that you’ve bought on-line.

It’s brilliant, isn’t it? After all, you work so that you can afford to buy stuff, but then you’re too knackered working to be bothered going to the shops, and everything you could ever want is just a click away.

Perfect, apart from the  annoying problem of having to be in when your purchases show up. It’s so old-fashioned and analogue, isn’t it? Actual physical ‘things’ being delivered that you have to put somewhere.

If only everything - food, clothes, furniture - could be virtual - just like music, films and books. Then we could close down all the shops, not just HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster, and live hermetically sealed, virtual lives until the human race dies out. No more horse burgers or queuing or unexpected items in the bagging area. It’s a winner, isn’t it? 

OK, I’ve gone a bit apocalyptic, but it’s true that we (along with the George Square design judges) have no idea what our city centres will look like in the decades to come, if shops continue to close apace. But we can take heart from one non-fantasy scenario. While we may be having a fling with digital downloads, we still love the live experience.

Look at the feast of cultural goodies on offer in these bleak opening months of the year - in Glasgow alone, Celtic Connections is under way, celebrating its 20th anniversary, with 53 musicians onstage - and that was just the opening concert. You can’t download that experience.

Meanwhile, tickets have just gone on sale for next month’s Glasgow Film Festival, the ninth edition of this hugely popular and ambitious event, which this year celebrates everything from Brazilian cinema to the joys of gaming, horror films and James Cagney. While movies can be watched on mobile phones, the festival box office figures prove that people of all ages enjoy the experience of “going to the pictures”.

And, though comedy can be consumed online, it bears no comparison to a live gig, as evidenced by another burgeoning annual event, details of which have just been announced. The 11th Glasgow International Comedy Festival - now the biggest event of its kind in Europe - will take place in March, with over 400 shows in 46 venues.

Those three examples are the big boys of the events world, but the urge to enjoy a communal experience is there at the grassroots, too.  The latest I spotted is Balerno Village Screen, a brand new community cinema in Edinburgh, funded by donations and offering free admission. Upcoming films include The Artist and Skyfall.

So let’s smile through the gloom, and remember - going out is the new staying in. Just don’t forget to call me about those pesky parcel deliveries.

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