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Oh Deià – how the artists’ colony in Mallorca fell victim to Bransonification

<span>Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

Stephen Burgen’s elegy for the Mallorcan town of Deià (What price paradise? How a Mallorcan artists’ haven became ‘a ghost town’, 21 January) is a reminder that in its prime it was one of the most vibrant and vital artistic and creative communities in the Mediterranean. Tomás Graves and others attribute the trigger for Deià’s descent into an overpriced playground for plutocrats to the real estate activities of Richard Branson, notably his creation in the late 1980s of the hotel La Residencia, which, in Graves’s words, “started to attract consumers rather than art producers”. Graves, along with the social anthropologist of Deià, Jackie Waldren (1937-2021), has written beautifully and evocatively about the Deià he was born into in 1954.

In 2003 James Wickham, now professor emeritus at Trinity College Dublin, wrote a striking paper, Personal Wealth in the UK and Western Europe: Massification, Individualism, Bransonification. What is this Bransonification? Prof Wickham explained that he is describing what happens when “wealth becomes legitimated by new forms of consumption and ostentatious display, where the celebs set the tone and owners of airlines try to behave like pop stars”, and “like any pop star, deliberately court publicity as a way of enhancing his personal brand”. This summer Richard Branson will be opening another Balearic luxury hotel in Banyalbufar, eight miles from Deià; and now counts (outer) space open to Bransonfication.

Robert Graves, Tomás’s father, ended his poem The Terraced Valley with: “This trick of time changing the world about / To once more inside-in and inside-out.”
Bruce Ross-Smith
Oxford