The "New Eastenders" – What About the "Old Eastenders"?

A series on “The New Eastenders” starts a run this week on BBC2. The programme promises to look at the artistic community that has “radically changed parts of The East End of London”. The Observer in its preview of the series makes some interesting points, perhaps unwittingly.

Their influence has been a property developers’ dream. As the pull of a “happening scene” continues to send prices rocketing, artisans, yuppies, entrepreneurs and now even large establishment organisations…have all been magnetically drawn towards the soi-disant creative heart of the capital.
So what ? As we’ve pointed out over the last two years, the “colonisation” (as The Observer puts it) of “beautiful people” (as they no doubt put it themselves) has been part of a wider programme of gentrification in the area. The working class of Shoreditch have been the main victims of this up till now, with families forced out because of spiralling rents and the New Deal and Council looking to capitalise on the value of the land by selling off estates and bringing in market rents in target blocks. But now even the artists are struggling to make ends meet, so obviously it’s worthy of widespread media concern after all.

Gentrification is not inevitable though. Hackney Independent believes that working class tenants can put our own interests first and kick the whole process into touch. Shoreditch New Deal Trust’s glossy magazine is finally starting to reflect what’s been happening on the ground: that the majority of local people want to stay with the council for their housing provision (they don’t reveal that survey results put the majority at 93% !) and that they don’t want their flats demolished.

Hackney Indpenendent has backed tenants in campaigning against sell-offs and been actively involved in presenting an alternative to the gentrification blueprint. It’s interesting to see that it’s not only tenants who’ve noticed our campaigning work in the local community, but the New Deal Board themselves who have noticed and had to change their language and approach because of the way Hackney Independent and Hackney’s working class majority have forced the agenda. Now it seems that even the national media is acknowledging some of the arguments we’ve been putting forward: that gentrification is not the answer to Shoreditch’s problems.