This was the first ever blog post I wrote on BHW (almost 3 years ago) – It’s seemed to have got lost in the move so I thought I’d repost.
“Gentrification seems to be the buzz word of the moment but as a born and bred working class Londoner what does it actually mean to me?
It means, I need to be “gentrified”, this is definitely news to me. I generally have excellent table manners, have a good job and almost never, hardly, well definitely only sometimes use OMG in a text message.
On a more serious note, I feel unwelcome on my own street and on a deeper note, it means, my face, my family and my culture are deemed to bring down property prices.
I am considered of less value, less desirable than my new neighbour, who is considered “trendy” and “aspiring”.
But am I any less aspiring than my middle class counter part? I would argue to the contrary. When you come from very little, every day you aspire and work hard to have more. Of course, we do not have the gift of “connections”, financial backing or the ability to “fit in” as others deemed “more desirable” do and so, the journey may take a little longer.
More significantly, we are not the gatekeepers of our media perception. Chav much? Yes, tastes in clothes, music, food, dialect and socialising may differ, but why is “organic bean paste” considered “gentrified” whereas freshly made Roti with Chicken Curry or Pie and Mash not? The colonial mentality pushers i.e media, corporations and government, always have something to sell, whether it be vegan children’s clothing or the argument to reduce public spending. Sadly, often the average person buys it. Just take a look at these delightful comments from a couple of Guardian readers on the topic of gentrification.
“Gentrification makes everyone safer, and if it de-concentrates criminals out of centralised ghetto zones into a broader, narrower ring on the outskirts it reduces their power to affect society and their relative proportion, and hence power..”
“Places like Harlem or Brixton – areas famous for their long histories of independent political and cultural scenes” – What a great way to cloak the words crime ridden and hell holes“
“Its [gentrification] people aspiring to own their own property, its people taking a risk and moving to an area that has potential, its people developing their homes and like minded people doing the same. Its about not crossing your arms and saying “I’m a vulnerable person, do something for me” but doing something for yourself and actually trying to selfishly better your life, largely through your own efforts.”
Apparently, we (the undesired working classes) are all criminals who refuse to do anything for ourselves.
But is this a fair portrayal of the average working class Brixton/Peckham/Hackney resident? The average working class person in London often has a university degree, white colour job, mortgage,is traveled and owns a car. Surprisingly, we are not the “Chavtastic criminal underclass” that many pro”gentrification” would have you believe. And if our area and communal facilities and services are run down, what does that say about “our” government? The class and colour of the majority of an area’s population determines the level of government service, investment and respect that the area will receive.
But this reality just doesn’t fit in with the opportunity for many to buy property in central London cheaply and claim it is for the “good” of the people.
This is what gentrification means to me.