Thursday, 4 August 2011

On gentrification

One of things we love about Berlin is the area that we stay in (Prenzlauer Berg, and can I just point you in the direction of Brilliant Apartments, who lived up to their name).

It is like bliss, like heaven - if you could make a blueprint for what would please us in a neighbourhood, you'd come up with something like Prenzlauer Berg - pretty streets, wide pavements, parks & greenery, plenty of history, bookshops and bars, no big corporate chains, just little cafes and independent shops... and best of all, not rammed with millions of people like anywhere decent in London.

But... Susie was telling us about the anti-gentrification rumblings there. She showed us some graffitti, (which I wish I'd photographed now) a mock-official order stencilled on some nice flats which said in German "These citizens have been summoned for class re-education." (an interesting nostalgia for the Communist era?)

Apparently there has also been somebody going around the area setting fire to prams - to prams! left in the apartment hallways, as a protest against - what? Babies? Oh, middle class families moving in. Riiight...

I had this discussion with someone a while back, sneering about Brick Lane and the gentrification. I understand the anger of locals who can't afford their local area anymore, because prices are being driven up.

But I think there is a difference between property developers looking to cash in and fucking the spirit of the neighbourhood over for a quick buck (see Open Dalston blog), and young people and families moving into an area and starting up their own businesses and little cafes and gradually improving what's on offer.

That's what happened in Brick Lane, when the artists moved in looking for somewhere cheap to live and work. And Hackney Wick. And Dalston. It's generally then that the sharks move in afterwards. But that period when the young people move there and start to improve things for themselves, that's building a community isn't it?

Otherwise, are we condemning people to live in shitty barrios with horrible food and no amenities? Because for poor people, that's more authentic...


  1. Before prams, it was cars:

  2. Brandanschläge = arson attacks, readers. Blimey.

  3. 1974 - Jonathan Raban's 'Soft City', you might have read it - describes the process in 70s London. Interesting, especially now Habitat is gone!

  4. Good tip, I haven't read it, that sounds right up my street. I love Jonathan Raban too.

    Alas for Habitat. The one is Tottenham Court Road is still there, phew!

  5. I always read Berlin place-names in the voice of the train announcer lady. God, I think I want to marry her.

    (Hold on. I can now only hear a male voice in my head. They use both, don't they? Or am I going mental?)

  6. Er - maybe a lady for the U-bahn and a man for the S-bahn? Maybe... Susie? Desmond?