An exchange of letters about Nandos in the Hackney Gazette

published in Hackney Gazette 1 May 2008

Dear Editor

After reading your coverage of the campaign by a group of middle-class nimbys to protest the opening of a Nandos in Stoke Newington Church Street, (a devastating proposition that certainly overshadows the need to protest the closure of Stoke Newington Road Post Office) I checked out their website to discover where you could sign their petition.

 “…you can sign the pledge at four shops on Church Street, at The Tea Rooms, Olive Loves Alfie, Casino and the Camia Deli.”

Where, I wonder can we sign a pledge against these exclusive, overpriced and useless shops?

Carl Taylor
Hackney Independent

published in the Hackney Gazette, 15 May 2008

Having read the letter, “Not in my exclusive backyard”, from Carl Taylor, in the Gazette on May 1, I would like to exercise a right of reply on behalf of the campaign he mentions in his letter.

The streets of our towns and cities have suffered grievously at the hands of the so-called “planners” and “developers” in the past 20 years. They have been made so bland, homogenised and completely identikit, that stepping on to one you would be hard-pushed to know whether you were in Scotland, Cornwall or any point in between, so utterly have they been eviscerated of character and individuality.

This is, very fortunately, still not quite true of Stoke Newington, and is it this that forms the basis of the campaign. The campaign is about making sure that small, independent retailers keep their fingertips clinging to the rock face of survival, not having them stamped all over by the large chains.

As for the way Mr Taylor tries to smugly and patronisingly use the term “middle-class nimbys” as some sort of put-down, there are two main rebuttals.

Firstly, the close-on 1,500 signatories to the campaign’s petition, from residents and businesses alike, cover the complete spectrum of our community in terms of age, race, class and sex. Had Mr Taylor bothered to look into the facts of the matter, rather than just react with a blind prejudice that says much more about him than about our campaign, he would have discovered this.

Secondly, his rather crass comments fall into the trap of the ad hominem argument, attacking the people making the argument instead of the argument itself. The campaign is asking those who live in the area to use their collective power to stop one of the best-loved streets in London from being denuded of all that makes it so special and turned into another clone of every main street from Paisley to Penzance.

Mr Taylor clearly seems concerned about the closure of “Stoke Newington Road post office”, too. However, with pointless and witless sarcasm, he seems to suggest that our campaign is somehow invalid because it does not address this point. It is not because it is not intended to. If Mr Taylor feels that strongly about the issue, may I suggest that he starts a campaign of his own. He will certainly receive our support, something he seems singularly unable to demonstrate himself.

David Solomons,

Jenner Road, Stoke Newington,

On behalf of the Boycott Nandos Campaign.