The War against Gentrification in London


It’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote here, for a good reason! Work is currently underway and there’ll be something big very soon. So, watch this space!

A couple of weeks ago, I was horrified to read on the papers about a recent attack during a Brick-Lane-Streetlarge demonstration in Brick Lane. Horrified and worried, because what drove that attack is something that is affecting us all one way or another. However, violence is not the best way to make those in power do something about it and it may backfire.

The demonstration was organised by an anarchist group called Class War. They attacked several businesses considered as symbols of the gentrification in that area. For those who may not be familiar with this, it is a growing issue in London. Affluent professionals are moving into some poor or deteriorating areas in London and generally renewing that area, attracting more affluent people and larger, established businesses. As prices go up, poorer residents unable to afford living in that area are often displaced.

As an example of this, Brick Lane became a really cool place to live and hang out a few years ago. It’d always been a poor area, bombed during the Second World War and never paid too much attention. The gentrification process had a positive effect on local businesses. But, if you look around now, housing, food and drink are not that affordable. Not for many.

The Cereal Killers, one of the businesses that was attacked in this demonstration, charges up to about £5 for a bowl of cereal. Class War argues that the huge amount of children and families living in poverty in the borough cannot afford that, while the owners already have two shops open.

I sympathise. Living in London is becoming increasingly difficult, and we all have to make many sacrifices. We are the first generation in a long time that is not better off than their parents. However, I can’t see how a group of people who call their demonstrations Fuck Parade and street parties, and intimidate people along the way are going to get anything done.

Now, you can call me sceptical, but here’s where I become more suspicious. Class War was registered as a political party last year, but was founded in 1983. Some have written about a previous ‘class war’ as being instigated by actual political forces and executed mostly by bored, rich kids. In the videos that I’ve watched, there don’t seem to be that many poor people and families in need demonstrating, maybe because they don’t have as much access to Facebook and other medium which protesters used to advertise their street parties.

Also, some people have said that the protest looked more like a “punk carnival“, in line with reports of similar demonstrations in 1980’s. They said that this was the third demonstration and that they would be back. Will there be anything starting to change for the better by then? Probably not.

I don’t know the ins and outs of this, and I tend to think that there is something else going on behind the scenes, which most of us don’t know about. I like Brick Lane, and I could’ve been there that night, like the many Londoners and tourists who regularly hang out there. £5 for a bowl of cereal or macaroni cheese purchased from a street stall is just too much. There are other ways to sort this out.

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Picture credit 1000 Things London

About A Londoner from Afar

Cheese & choc lover, marketer and linguist who would like to explore and share those aspects that still have the power to make her stay in the amazingly vibrant city of London after nearly 10 years.
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