Thursday, 22 December 2011


Here's how gentrification happens. A few bohemians move into a very run-down area (Stoke Newington) and establish a few cafes and jazz clubs and an art cinema. Years pass. Gradually slightly more well-heeled bohemians move in and the cafes, jazz clubs etc breed vintage clothes shops and second-hand book shops. Twee hippy shops called Pixie Moon open and close. Students move in. More cafes and bookshops open. Vinyl and junk shops close. Greasy spoons and sewing machine repair shops move to the East End. Local festivals are organised, with ethnic food stalls. The pioneers are a bit like 19th century missionaries: they want to spread liberal values, but they also see the economic possibilities.

End stage: the real money moves in, 10 estate agents open in the high street and professional couples buy and do up all the Victorian houses within reach. A few electricians and builders suppliers hang on, but the woodyard is now a Fresh and Wild. New shops sell 50s furniture, framed 20s music covers etc. Soon the incomers will open their own school instead of moving to Crouch End as soon as their children are school-age. (Update: schools have improved, and the incomers are staying put.)

So what’s the difference between the new and old Stokey incomers? We thought we were moving into a village. They see an area that now has things they like (retro toyshops, restaurants) and cheaper Victorian houses. They move in and terraform the place to their requirements. They don’t open tastefully whimsical cafes with Poole pottery and embroidered tablecloths, they open patisseries selling elaborate little cakes at £5 each. They don’t go to Gambian drumming workshops, they drive their children to oboe lessons. They wouldn’t visit a holistic clinic for acupuncture (especially not one in a crumbling, pokey and rather dirty Victorian house), they want a luxury spa. They don’t go to the Mother Earth whole food shop that’s been there for 20 years, they go to Fresh and Wild which basically sells expensive gourmet food. They’re not going to shop for vintage clothes, they’re going to buy expensive, new designer versions of peasant wear (stripey Breton tops).

The hippies and lefties who wore flowery trousers (later, shift dresses made out of 50s curtains) and sold Tibetan jewellery at free street fairs have left. (They were aggressively pale, to prove that tanning is a capitalist plot, and had a cowed, weedy “partner” with a baby strapped to his front.) They’ve been replaced by fashionably dressed young women with baby buggies, or older couples with one IVF baby. (The men are far too hands-on and bossy with the children.) The women open their own businesses which don't need to make money because they've already got some, and Stoke Newington becomes Crouch End. And I sound like someone complaining that their quaint holiday fishing village has been taken over by grockles.

More photos here. And here. And here.


  1. Exactly. I left a few years ago when the posh childrens shops became a bit too oppressive, but still come back to viist. Now I am watching the same process happen in a small town in the SW...

    But the schools shift is there already. When I first moved to Stokey, there were no children over 5 to be seen on Church St, their parents had all moved to Hertforshire rather than do Hackney Schools. Now each primary has a catchment of about 100m sq. But they all still do a runner at 11.

    1. Better transport links, lower house prices - of course the moneyed move in. Desperately trying to see the difference between me and them!