With a host of bands – including Alabama 3 and Fat White Family – playing a Brixton Fightback For Social Housing gig tomorrow (11 June) night at the Brixton Electric, one of them, Misty Miller, has given us a a personal take on the impact gentrification.
I’ve watched parts of London become gentrified. It is undeniable and sadly very visible. From what I know, artists move into an area – usually somewhere affordable therefore ‘run down’ – and make it a place filled with creativity. From this creative zeitgeist comes a sense of community.
East London, for example, used to be a place where the struggling artists of our society could afford to live and work shoulder-to-shoulder with the local residents of the East End; families who had come generations earlier to settle here. It proved to be so popular that the warehouses of Hackney Wick were no longer a well kept secret where rooms and studios cost hardly anything to occupy. Fast-forward 20 years and the East End – Hackney in particular – is thriving commercially. Unfortunately it is people seeking to buy into the latest trends who are quickly followed by the luxury housing developers, and subsequently the corporations that are desperate to cash-in on an area’s ‘cool’ factor which hastens the demise of culturally vibrant places.
The people who suffer are those who cannot afford all the new and shiny things their once slightly-dilapidated high street now has to offer. Those who live in council or housing association properties, and have done for decades, find themselves pushed out, sometimes homeless, and often voiceless. It is scary that these things can happen to people. Rent goes up, prices go up, and the artists have to move out, making it an area where the juices have stopped flowing. All you’re left with a express supermarkets where your old local used to be. None of us are blind, and there is a definitely a growing desire to understand what it is exactly that is going on and making people want to strip down places with character and a history.
I am a musician, and someone who is heavily involved in the arts. I don’t know where I’d be without the venues where I’m a regular or the people that run them. I loved a place called The Grosvenor in Stockwell. I played there a few times and saw some great gigs. It was a divey pub primarily for punks but I definitely wasn’t the only one sad to see it go. I don’t know what I’d do if my favourite venue, The Windmill on Brixton Hill, got shut down to become some flats or a bourgeois pub. It’s where I have developed as an artist and is like a second home to me and many others.
This ‘threat’ is horrible. But, the one thing it generates is a sense of community. And it brings people together to fight for what we rightfully love and thrive off. It’s scary how much power the people with the money have, but it’s ultimately people, us, who have the power. And one thing about artists is that we really give a damn about what we do.
If you feel like I do, then come make a noise at the Electric in Brixton on the 11 June. I am playing a gig alongside other good friends of the creative scene in Brixton to raise money for Cressingham Gardens.