Thursday 12 June 2014

Gentrification V

Church Street
Sure sign of gentrification is the anti-gentrification graffiti by the last generation of gentrifiers. (Huw Lemmey ‏@spitzenprodukte)

My Romanian taxi driver bizarrely complaining about... mass arrival of more Romanians next year. "They will work for less. Keep them out." (Sathnam Sanghera)

That’s me – complaining about all the middle classes moving into the area I… moved into 30 years ago. But I moved here because it was working class! Though looking back, there weren’t many decent pubs or cafes, there wasn’t much to do, and friends were scattered thinly.

We predicted the area would “come up”. And then it didn’t. Years passed. And now it has, but not in time for us. Damn!

And we were imagining a clean-up, a paint-job, some repairs, maybe a left-wing café/bookshop, a hippy vegan restaurant in a squat, and no more prostitutes in the park or crumbling houses full of crack addicts - not farmers’ markets in Clapton selling ethical escargots. Dalston has become Camden Market.

“The activists and hippies who once lived in cooperatives where everyone paid according to ability and parents sang Nkosi Sikelele Afrika to their white babies have largely gone.” (New York Times May 2014 on Brixton) In the 80s, the middle-class incomers were political activists, who deliberately took up activities that meant meeting working class people of all origins. It may have been a mixed blessing for the working classes, but I miss singing Give Peace a Chance in a marquee while everybody eats Caribbean food off paper plates.

People say Stoke Newington High Street is ALL gentrified now (a few cafes called “The Haberdashery”). But for the past 30 years the gentrifiers have managed to ignore the large Turkish community which is still the most prominent culture in Green Lanes and on the High Street. To my knowledge, Upwards don’t exclaim over darling little Lahmacun restaurants (and don’t go there), don’t learn the oud, don’t listen to Turkish music, don’t learn Turkish, don’t go to Turkey on holiday. They shop at Turkish corner shops and take trips in Turkish cabs but they study Buddhism, not Islam. And of course you couldn’t run workshops teaching easy Turkish songs when you’re surrounded by expert Turkish musicians (and Turkish music sounds pretty hard).

Hipster junk shops in Stokey have even caught up with 70s owls! That was MY thing.

If my 35-year-old self could see London as it is now, she’d be amazed to see flats above shops made habitable (they used to be left empty for some legal reason), coffee shops everywhere - and all the buildings so clean.

More here, and links to the rest.

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