The Institute of Ideas in partnership with the Nunnery Gallery, Bow Arts Trust hosts:
A Round Table Debate: Cultural Regeneration or Gentrification?
Speakers: Alan Miller, CEO of the Vibe Bar; Feargus O’Sullivan, Journalist at Atlantic Media Magazine Citylab; Emma Dent-Coad, Leader of the Labour Group at London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as well as academic, and writer; James Stevens, Strategic Planner, Home Builders Federation.
Tickets: Free but pre-booking essential at http://culturalregeneration.eventbrite.co.uk
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 improve neighbourhoods, the sceptics argue that they are, knowingly or unwittingly, helping gentrification. CityLab online magazine recently called it ‘Artwashing’: getting an area cleaned up before properties are bought up cheap, 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?