A different kind of travelogue. As an avid young traveller I often wondered what would it would be like when I got older, gathered commitments, created children and accrued debt. This is what it's like.
London has portrayed itself as “Hip” ever since it was hip. That was a while ago. It’s really not that hip anymore. It is huge. It is moneyed. It has become the playground of the fabulously rich. The present government has overseen the greatest expansion of ultra-wealthy individuals within the boundaries of London in its history. London has the highest concentration of millionaires in the world and this has largely happened in the last 5 years while the present right wing government over see the greatest cuts ever seen to welfare, education and health. The rich get richer. The poor get processed into dog food.
It may not be the swinging sixties. It may not have a ground swell behind filled with new fresh musicians, poets, philosophers, fashion designers or painters. It may not be hip but like every other wealthy western city it has hipsters.
We had a quality Hipster experience down Maltby Street Market. There were beards and piercings. There were young men tossing over unreconstructed amounts of red meat in a totally reconstructed manner. They were cool. They knew it. And the clientele knew it too. It was like we all just got a little bit cooler by buying a toasted sandwich from this posh sounding chap with immaculate grooming.
But the sandwich was good. The cheese guy had good cheese. The Bad Brownies were actually so good they were bad/good/bad. The Norwegian salmon smiling guy was very cool. I’m told that the smoked salmon was good too. The gin guy was good. The beer guy was good. The groovy bakery was good. Monty’s Deli was good.
Why is it that Hipster males put so much effort into their Hipster styled appearance yet when they reach high levels of Hipster individuality they all look the same? That checked shirt lumbar-sexual look. Don’t get me wrong I like many things about what the hipsters bring; recycled-cycles, craft beer, smug coffee snobbery and men making food. I also grow a beard every year or so. I don’t have a “fixie” but I do like a push bike. Somehow I feel its okay to tease these guys a little.
I certainly enjoyed their market and so did the entire family. We went there with old friends (and their beautiful children) that manage to be genuinely cool with no distinguishing Hipster features. So thats still possible.
Malty Street has been around for a while and its all part of the growing LASSCO empire. I recall visiting the London Architectural Salvage and Supply Company (LASSCO) in an old warehouse in London maybe 20 years ago just to check out their stuff. There were entire rooms and huge ancient marble bath tubs. It was fantastic. They were ahead of their time but there is only so much genuine stuff you can find, salvage and recycle. The business has diversified and they’ve made use of what they’ve got. In the case of Maltby Street what they have is a set of railway arches. The market is all in (and around) a small lane between an old building and a raised train line. Under the arches there are tiny semi-transportable businesses. Behind the guys serving coffee that has been dripping for 24 hours are thousands of items belonging to LASSCO; old disassembled staircases, cinema seats, that sort of thing. The LASSCO store itself had more clothes and other small items on display than I recalled. Not entirely recycled but pretty cool.
I was having a great time. I bought some microbrewery brewed beers, watched a bunch of small businesses do their best to get ahead. I know it’s another type of gentrification. It is not the same as building a giant courthouse in a slum to let everyone knows who is boss. None of the stall holders are numbered in the millionaires mentioned above. But having said that none of the punters are likely to be on welfare either.
I’m confused. Should I drink this organic Pale Ale or not?
I suppose its equally important to avoid the ‘us and them’ trap when we consider the ‘cool’ and ‘privilaged’ as it is when we consider the ‘jihadist’?
I was down in the Pope’s Nose the other night having a pint (im back on the beer, i was off it there for a bit, i get very serious when im off the beer) well anyway i heard a lovely song on the radio and there was a bit of a chat about it in the pub afterwards and when i read your bit on what London is becomeing it reminded me of the song.
The song is a Scotish trad. ‘Will you go to Flanders’, it may have been written in the 18th cent. about the Duke of Malborough’s campaign in Belgium or perhaps later. The song asks Molly if she will go to Flanders to join the wealthy and privilaged who apparently used to arrive with their entourage to the surrounding hills and sip champagne while watching the slaughter in the valley down below.
Hello there Sheamus. I will look up that song. I may or may not go to Flanders.
Really interesting point. As a critic of gentrification and urban displacement myself that has been effected by rent rises in London- I have now moved to Sheffield, but find myself going to artisan independent coffee shops, ‘hip’ thrift sales and street food markets there and often grapple with my own acute awareness that I am some how part of the process. But it is not about blame, it is about awareness and maintaining criticism for the Tories and their sell off of council housing. Its fine to regenerate areas so long as in the process social sustainability is maintained and some of the old facilities are kept that locals were used to i.e. the local pub- this is done by ensuring there is still affordable housing in the area. That is the government’s fault.
Hello there Citygirl92!
It is not about blame.
The hipsters are like canaries in the mine for urban regeneration.
They are not the problem. I like Hipsters.
There are tremors felt before gentrification as I touched in in relation to Hoxton. I have seen many different versions. An inner urban area where prostitutes work may become an area where struggling artists can get studio space cheap which in turn may become a place where Cafes open up and then coffee roasters, microbreweries Etc ….
The belated influx of developers and apartment builders is just another wave of change. The present and recent governments are absolutely neck deep in the pre-conditions to all redevelopment. The truth is that the governments are usually of the opinion that this sort of thing is best done by the “Market”.
I don’t agree.
Sounds like you don’t either.
Have you read “The Establishment” by Owen Jones?
You put it into words excellently! It brings to mind Grayson Perry’s observations of the ‘artist effect’ who claims that ‘artists are the foot soldiers of gentrification.’ A sad, but unavoidable paradox for young artists and graduates, even if they have a strong social conscience.
I am going to be writing my masters dissertation on the gentrification of Finsbury park (or ‘Crouch-Endification of Finsbury park’ as it will be titled in reference to how Crouch End gentrified first in the early 90s)…and hope to also explore how it is not a single actors ‘fault’ but a process that people could be more aware of, i.e. social actions to stop closures of local facilities like the ‘job centre’ bar – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/09/job-centre-bar-gentrification-ironically-deptford
The Establishment is on my reading list!