I went on Saturday to Brixton street market, which honestly, is one of the best places on earth. Ran by independent local traders, you can buy anything from fresh fruit to hair wigs, reflecting the diverse and vibrant community in Brixton. I was stopped in my tracks when I saw some monstrous Sports Direct signage sticking out like a sore thumb. When a man see’s me looking, he expresses his grievances, pointing to a row of stalls lined in its shadow, that they will be no more. I got home and done a quick Google search, to find out the controversial company has scoped out 30 million in a bid to take over a large chunk of the marketplace on Popes Road, home to 140 independent retailers and restaurants which will inevitably be culled once the company moves in. Just like *that*.
So how do they get away with it? Doing it for the ‘better good’ of course *Eye roll*
Similar gentrification can be seen in Camden Stables and Camden Lock which was purchased in 2014 for 400 million by Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi. Despite the controversy, managing director of the ‘project’ Ken Gunn has claimed that they took over at a time, where the area was severely underfunded, and was understood that although tourists where flocking, they weren’t spending. He argues that by having a single ownership and by reclaiming and re-investing in these areas allows for ‘new marketing opportunities and branding, ‘bringing a strategic vision for coordinating activity at the site’.
This all sounds well and good in principle, but these markets towns are not high streets?? Gunn has even admitted that it’s still too soon to say whether Camden is actually better off or not. Perhaps having something as commercialised as Sports Direct in Brixton will reinforce the uniqueness and independence of the remaining markets, but I’m not convinced. It’s easy for these big businesses to guise their stoutly non-negotiable hand as a helping one, but investment doesn’t come without the expectation of significant return. What about the less attractive aspects of gentrification? What about the businesses being ripped out and the social and cultural effects this has on the Brixton community. What about the heritage, connectedness, locality? The bottom line is, these people don’t want to move, but they have to. There may well be a big paternalistic plan, but there is no communication, no explanation or opportunity for input in decision making or reassurances for these people. Rose-tint it all you want, Its not hard to see who this ‘investment’ is actually for.