Gentrification emboldens the individualised silos we exist in. It is the preemptive conversion of lifestyles which began collectively when we landed on this rainy Island from former colonies. We interact less in post-gentrification London, our markets, community centres, our homes destroyed by councils moonlighting as property developers. Our commutes punctuated with less “hellos” or “Asalam walaykums” and instead occupied with the less than peaceful whirls of coffee machines making flat whites for £3.50.
Beyond the media’s fascination with hipsterism, there are very real consequences for people concerning housing, well-being and the ability to just about survive in a city becoming unrecognisable to those who could call it home.
Gentrification is not just limited to Brixton or Shoreditch. Communities across London are facing total wipeout from developers. In the face of immeasurable wealth and political capital, people are fighting back. In South Kilburn, The Granville Centre, a community space which has existed for over 100 years and provides free halal meals to locals every Friday, is resisting Brent Councils plans to demolish the site. Communities are also experiencing tangible “wins.” In Shepherds Bush, market traders resisted plans to build 200 luxury flats alongside the market.
Shepherds Bush sits between the notoriously wealthy enclaves of Holland Park and Notting Hill but has managed to tenuously hold onto a sense of identity. The central grassy patch; Shepherds Bush Green was a Westward home for farmers to graze their flock. White City, just north of Bush where the BBC have a broadcasting house, was once the site of “The Bush exhibition” in 1908 which aimed to highlight the success of the British Imperial Mission. Since the two World Wars, the area has seen Irish, Somali, Arab, Pakistani and Australian migrants settle in the area. Both Shepherds Bush and the market’s history is dotted with thousands of colourful stories of immigrant hustle and post-war respite.
That immigrant hustle is no more evident in the Market stalls selling everything from Hijabs to woolly hats, with eateries like the famous Sudanese owned Falafel Hut to the Caribbean restaurants along the Uxbridge Road. Bush manages to retain a semblance of authenticity. But where cultural authenticity lies, developers are never too far away.
The first and most infamous development was that of Westfield Shopping Centre which aimed to attract wealthy visitors who live in nearby Notting Hill, Chiswick, Fulham and Holland Park. A similar effort was made in the attempt to redevelopment Shepherds Bush Market with luxury flats. The developments are a stark contrast to the predominantly family owned businesses on the Uxbridge and Goldhawk road consisting of everything from a vast swathe of textile shops to Arab grocers.
House prices have similarly shot up, with property prices increasing by 13% year on year, and 2 bedroom flats now selling for an average of £600,000. An area seemingly impervious to the affects of gentrification is succumbing to the inextricable desire to turn every part of London into a private auction for the super wealthy.
In the context of development, successful resistance is happening to reclaim spaces from councils and developers. This is exactly what the Shepherds Bush Market Tenants Association did when the High Court upheld their appeal against developers Orion.
We spoke to traders in Bush Market to discuss the histories of their stalls, the nitty gritty of “consultation” processes and what redevelopment could have meant for them. The interviews form part of magazine entitled Stories of the Market – W12, a group of us with vested interests in the area created in order to archive the histories of the traders. The purpose of it is to emphasise the importance of these public spaces and what affect privatising public space can have on existing communities.
One of the bright, welcoming and friendly traders we spoke to is Sylvia Fletcher. She has seen four generations work at Fletchers and remembers the communal atmosphere of the market well. But “everything changes, doesn’t it?” she says. “Years ago we used to have dances and all that, we used to have the committee of the market and we’d have big dances at the Royal Albert Hall. “Everyone went to dances and that, it was a lovely place to be. It’s still nice, people come and have a laugh and joke. There’s still lots of lovely people. Some people just come here and they just like have to chat. They’ve come here as kids and now they’re kids have grown up and then they’ve got babies.”
Bush Market is not just a special place for the traders either. Local people come to the market, not just for daily essentials but to talk. Whilst social care is being cut and austerity pushing more and more into depression, anxiety and loneliness, markets like this play an increasingly important role. We spoke to Lionel, who pays a visit to Billy’s Jewellery store in Shepherds Bush Market every so often.
“I live on my own, I come here to make friends with Billy here, he is my good mate and they’re all very nice guys. A lot of people like to come here, it’s part of the community to you know catch up. It’s a nice thing, it’s a valued thing.
Because I’m on my own there’s no one. There are people like my neighbours who are good but when I’m feeling lonely I come down here to the market to be happy. So it’s good that this shop is here so that I can come here and have a friendship with my two good friends.”
Sarah, who has run a hat stall in the market for over 40 years, fears the area is changing at a pace which will push out locals.
“The local area has been changing for a while. The area is becoming more gentrified which is what the developers are trying to do to this market. So yeah. Because we’ve got Westfield and we’ve got lots of people coming from outside the area into Westfield and obviously you know they’ve got money. They’re [tried] to develop the market so it sort of fits in with the image of ‘Westfield’.”
“All commercial shops, not independent, you know a lot of the shops are doing the same things whereas here you’ve got small traders and I think what will eventually happen. What we are fighting at the moment is that when the market is developed we know we’re going to get out priced with the rent so that we’ll no longer be able to trade from here.”
These interviews have been taken from an extract from a zine entitled “Stories Of The Market – W12.” The Zine is available to buy at: Zain Textiles, 69 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, W12 8NR. For information on where to buy the zine, or to order a copy online, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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