Fine lines

“For all the passive-aggressive conscience salving however, the outraged ensemble with their newly purchased brooms still need to face up to the rampant inequalities and social exclusion that a gentrification of urban neighbourhoods (usually by them) exacerbates. This is particularly true of the apparent organiser of the original twitter campaign that lay behind ‘the great clean-up’, who in his day job runs the overly-simplistic, tirelessly self-promotional Art in Empty Shops gentrification consultancy. This individual, the ‘artistic director’ of Revolutionary Arts (haha) and originator of the Empty Shops network has spent the last few years renting out the simulacrum of social cohesion with a jauntily angled hat. Advising councils and artists on how to use art to keep vacant properties warm whilst the market is depressed and make sure that the capital locked up in them doesn’t depreciate, he has given rise to all manner of ‘pop-up’ events organised to paper over the cracks in the broken big-society fantasy of a jolly ‘local community’ which appears stuck in the 1940s. These decorative efforts have largely only succeeded in covering over the disintegration of localised economies with twee décor, whilst huge-scale retail barns appear on the outskirts of said communities, sucking up the life from within them, causing more and more neighbourhood shops to be abandoned. It is no coincidence that the primary target of rioters, despite a media-narrative keen to play up the social impact of these events on small retailers, was large retail warehouse stores that cling parasitically to neighbourhoods at the periphery of inner cities. These are stores that far from being the ‘heart of the community’, largely suck wealth out of it into overseas tax havens. This time the chap behind the empty shops network applied his big-society sticking plaster to the social destruction (which his gentrification agenda directly feeds into) and the devastation wrought by widespread internecine urban conflict.”

#riotcleanup or #riotwhitewash?, University of Strategic Optimism

“…the economic crisis has produced a keen sense of double-standards that has fuelled massive public resentment at a political class, most of whom in the case of the current government, represent affluent constituencies that have been relatively unscathed by the new austerity. Again, a sense of the geography of social inequality is paramount to providing a more effective diagnosis of the situation. If it were really a simple case of individual criminal choice and ‘gang culture’ we would expect to see the riots extending to a much wider range of neighbourhoods. We need to enter this mindset to see how thirty years of corporate excess, housing market exclusion, gentrification and continued goading to consume without the resources to do so has left many sections of British society feeling alienated and embittered.”

– Why? Rowland Atkinson and Simon Parker

“Occasionally, during the 12 years I’ve lived in the city, I’d often idly wonder when the riots would come: when the situation of organic delis next to pound shops, of crumbling maisonettes next to furiously speculated-on Victoriana, of artists shipped into architect-designed Brutalist towers to make them safe for Regeneration, of endless boosterist self-congratulation, would finally collapse in on itself.”

Something has snapped, and it’s been a long time coming, Owen Hatherley


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s