January 27, 2011

East Berlin is changing and some of the residents are non too happy about the direction it’s taking East Berlin Fights Back Against the Yuppy Invaders. The situation the article describes – basically the artists are being driven out of their dirt cheap premises by property developers capitalising on the area’s newly found cool – is one that seems to happen in many a western city. We have our own creative industries Disneyland in Broadway Market, a formerly working class area but now home to the £10 ‘organic’ potato. But are the artists right to be pissed off or is the inevitability of the outcome something we should just learn to accept and move on?

Berlin seems a fairly unique case in that it had 100, 000 empty properties at the time of unification. The artists seem to have built a scene and community largely from scratch and now someone else is looking to extract a monetary value from that and will no doubt probably piss in the creative soup at the same time.  You can understand the anger. But the people who now frequent areas like Broadway Market and Williamsburg in New York have stuck their latte in an existing community’s egg and chips and so is it right for the same people to ask for protection from market forces when they come knocking?

The right approach seems to be caught in the article: don’t make the area so attractive. But unfortunately it’s difficult (and probably a tiny bit facist…) to control the population to your own preferences. Or to phrase that better, what you like – in terms of fun, place, people etc – may also act as a numpty magnet too. When, for example, was Dalston at its optimum ‘good’ mix of people if we are to assume that it has tipped over into negative credits in recent years. Tricky. And is this actually thinly disguised snobbery of a kind closely related to the smug attitudes found ‘on Broadway’?

What is safe to assume that once the couple who used to run Londis have been replaced by some bloke in Victorian costume selling soda farls, the newsagent has become a line caught sustainable fishmongers and when the pub starts selling organic cordials it might be time to ring the estate agent.  That assumes of course that you can afford to move. Or want to. If you can’t, you’re stuck with it.

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