THE BLOG

A Misconceived View of Gentrification

24/01/2014 11:05 GMT | Updated 25/03/2014 09:59 GMT

I was enraged after reading Alex Proud's (Proud Group, Founder and Proprietor) shameful and degrading article on the gentrification of Shoreditch. Yet no references were made to Camden or his beloved Proud Club which incidentally is situated in a "gentrified" part of the Stables Market. Alex has managed not only to offend the people of Shoreditch but other parts of London. I am surprised Boris Johnson hasn't given him an ASBO for his shocking views.

The piece offended me as I regularly DJ in Shoreditch and was part of the first wave of "gentrified" DJs who took advantage of the early stages of "Shoreditchification" through a monthly residency at Nuphonic Records former club "Bridge and Tunnel". I have also been to Proud Camden on several occasions so able to make comparisons between the two. At times I have questioned what gentrification has done to Shoreditch but feel Alex has overstepped the mark with an unjustified account and failed to highlight the positives that have put Shoreditch on the map not just in London, across the UK but as a trendsetting global place.

Either the piece was written to make note of his business interests or it's an epic fail to mock Shoreditch and make Camden look angelic. Alex speaks out and makes offensive references about people's dress sense, conversations and so on. Firstly I didn't know what to make of his observations but thought he probably missed the "gentrified" train and now bitching about it like a spoilt brat.

"Go into any hipster venue and you'll see. From the microbrewery ales and ironically-drunk mass-market lagers to upcycled furniture and jumble-sale '70s suburban art, they're all cool by numbers. The people dress the same, they eat the same and the conversations sound the same."

Bit of a contradiction as that's the perceived view of Proud Camden by many of my friends who live in Camden, Chalk Farm and Belsize Park. Love or hate Shoreditch it has problems like any other part of London but achieved greatly through gentrification which has allowed fashion, bar, club and lifestyle brands such as All Saints, Boxfresh and Barrio to tap into the gentrified market and bring new opportunities to the area.

I don't think Alex has witnessed the drags of people leaving his Camden club at 2am. Whilst driving home from a gig I regularly have to stop or swerve to avoid punters who stumble out of Proud and walk in the middle of Chalk Farm Road. Let me be clear this is not a Proud attack (no pun intended) but Camden has turned into a weekend paradise for out of towners who get intoxicated and can't behave themselves after a big night out. That happens across most cities across the country. Hoards of police vans are usually milling around Camden and the Stables Market to ensure no anti social behaviour takes place. It's like driving through a flying ant or cockroach peak time scrum and fearing for your life.

I grew up near Proud Galleries and watched Chalk Farm Road turn into a hip, trend and gentrified magnet of Camden in the mid to late 1990s. In the late 1980s Camden was an alternative melting pot for punks and music aficionados to hang out. The Lock Tavern was a dusty old boozer frequented mainly by locals. Eventually it got tarted up and now regarded as one of London's trendiest hot spots frequented by cool hipsters and tourists. Along with the Roundhouse that has shaped the true cultural essence of Camden and Chalk Farm.

Alex views are distorted especially as he target areas which are populated by the lifeblood of London "the working class".

"Now, the bearded seers of gentrification are turning their gaze to Crystal Palace and Streatham, Walthamstow and Tottenham. Doubtless these suburban nowheres will have their six months in the sun before they're chewed up and forgotten, with only a few boarded-up "dirty food" restaurants and doubled house prices to remind residents that, sometime in the mid 2010s, they were written about (then sneered at) by Vice journalists."

Bad move. Many of the people who live in these areas contribute to our city greatly in different forms. And the same beardy, scruffy and party types can be found in Camden too. I have seen a lot of them previously downing shots at Proud or getting carted away by the police. So Alex should not be discouraging and putting Shoreditch down. He should embrace change as a true Londoner. Jealousy is the root of all evil. I just find it odd that he makes no reference whatsoever to Camden. Is he embarrassed or scared of what people will make of Camden now? Oh he does and gives his beloved Camden a pat on the back. No mention whatsoever of anti social behaviour, gentrification or the "bearded trendies" that hang out every weekend outside his club and gallery.

"Here I hold up Camden as an example. OK, I know I have a vested interest, but Camden was cool in 1994 (and even 1984) and it's still cool in 2014. It has, dare I say it, sustainable coolness."

Yet his article goes on to mock other parts of London citing Camberwell, Croydon, KFC pop ups and gentrifying Streatham. I'm sure residents in Streatham are proud of their community and don't need any advice from Alex Proud. Camden has a KFC, Burger King and McDonalds. I don't think Shoreditch has any? So what's his point?

Alex refers to

"A roiling, boiling mass of fight-ready designer-labelled out-of-towners smashed on sugary cocktails and bad cocaine, a cold-climate Ayia Napa. Notting Hill doesn't know how lucky it is to have merely become a ghetto for bankers."
Hello Alex! Yes and they are probably the same group who end up at your bar getting smashed and upping your profits every year. Don't knock it!!

Alex clearly lives in a leafy, affluent part of London, possibly Hampstead or St John's Wood and comes across as a blatant snob who dosen't have a clue about Londoners in general. In fairness he depicts typical gentrification but in the wrong and degrading manner. Maybe he should invest in those areas rather than discrediting them and get out of his comfort zone. I reckon he should meet up with me sometime to have a coffee in those areas he mentioned, in particular Camberwell, Peckham, Streatham, Croydon and other parts of London that have not yet been fully gentrified to see what real Londoners have to offer.

We seem to be obsessed with trends and which parts of London are cool to be in. I confess to be part of the snobby brigade. It was literally for one minute during a brief conversation in which I berated my friend when she mentioned moving to Dagenham and said it was "cheap and rough". I jumped on the gentrification bandwagon and reacted rather badly by calling her a "Dagenham Dave". Slip of the tongue. I suppose there is an exception for Dagenham as it's technically on the London/Essex border.

But Alex's attack on "Shoreditchification" goes beyond the shores of Brick Lane, Hackney Road, Shoreditch High Street, Kingsland Road and surrounding areas. It's a real dig at what Londoners are all about. Get over it Alex, go and mingle with your gentrified buddies and chill out.