Cultural regeneration or gentrification?

Tuesday 14 October, 19.00 until 20.30, Nunnery Gallery, Bow Arts Trust, 181 Bow Rd, London E3 2SJ UK Satellite Events 2014

This event is free but pre-booking is essential at Eventbrite.

Cultural policy is seen as essential in helping to regenerate previously unfashionable areas of east London and right across the capital. Every neighbourhood seems keen to emphasise its credentials as a creative, artist-friendly hub and no urban space is complete without short-let ‘pop-up’ shops and restaurants, temporary cinemas or urban beaches. Supporters argue that such playful, small-scale interventions can help ‘citizens take ownership of their city’ and engender a community spirit seen as sorely diminished after the 2011 riots.

Yet others are more sceptical about the merits of such schemes, seeing them as invariably corporate-sponsored examples of ‘hipster gentrification’, which undermines rather than bolsters civic engagement, with even the creatives of east London’s Tech City complaining development of the area will change its ‘unique character’.
While many artists claim to be committed to being friendly with residents and helping to improve neighbourhoods, the sceptics argue that they are, knowingly or unwittingly, helping gentrification. CityLab magazine recently called it ‘Artwashing’: getting an area cleaned up before properties are bought up cheap, with existing residents removed and flats sold for the highest price possible.

Some hail the rise of artist-led cultural initiatives as a radical challenge to both the problems of austerity and the perceived stifling sanitisation of contemporary public life. Are playful, small-scale interventions and urban explorations a challenge to the sanitised city, or merely part of it? To what extent do they provide a means to nurture the urban realm and engender community spirit? In any case, is gentrification inevitable?

Emma Dent-Coad
planning spokesperson, Labour Group, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council; design and architecture journalist

Alan Miller
chairman, Night Time Industries Association (NTIA)

Feargus O’Sullivan
Europe correspondent, CityLab

James Stevens
strategic planner, Home Builders Federation

David Bowden
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer

Produced by
Michael Owens commercial director, Bow Arts Trust; owner, London Urban Visits; formerly, head of development policy, London Development Agency
Recommended readings
Gentrification: why we need more of it

The Hackney brasserie debacle shows we need more gentrification, not less.

Niall Crowley, spiked, 20 June 2014

Gentrification in London: Chasing cool

FOR young, upper-middle-class Londoners, the game of the moment is guessing where the cool kids will be going next.

Economist, 8 April 2014

Why this 'Shoreditchification' of London must stop

The relentless hipsterfication of run-down urban areas leaves a bad taste in Alex Proud's mouth

Alex Proud, Telegraph, 13 January 2014

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