London has become the super-rich capital of the world, with more billionaires than any other city in the world, and the highest cost of living on earth.
The burgeoning financial markets that attract the wealthy create employment and boost tax revenues which should benefit us all. And yet there is also a human cost: working people can barely afford to live in the city; the culture that attracted people in the first place is squeezed out; and communities are destroyed as the rich buy up property and buildings.
We’re looking at images of London in 2015 and asking what they might reveal about how our beloved city is changing, for better or for worse…
1. Property values – a source of smug delight
This poster is at the bottom of my road, and perhaps it’s because I see it every day that it annoys me. It just seems to sum up how property values have come to pay such a large part in London life – a source of smug delight for some, and despair for others.
2. This sausage roll
It used to be said that cocaine was God’s way of telling you you’d got too much money. I’d suggest that in London 2015, cocaine’s role has been usurped by tiny artisan sausage rolls costing £3.50, such as this one from a deli in Belsize Park.
3. Moving to Birmingham suddenly seems like a good idea
The Daily Mail reports that rising house prices and overcrowding forcing young families to leave London: New figures show 60,000 thirty-somethings abandon the capital in one year
4. ‘Luxury’ flats
Among the legacies of the current property boom the ubiquitous “luxury flat development”. Only a cynic would suggest that luxury flats frequently resemble what used to be known simply as “flats”
5. Champagne and Fromage
Does Brixton really need a place called Champagne and Fromage?
6. Burger joint in style of a 1970s dive
Caption: The Camden branch of Byron – the chain whose £10 burgers were notoriously used by George Osborne to signify his man-of-the-people quality – is deliberately decorated in the style of a 1970s burger dive, complete with faux mini-cab office in the foyer. I have friend from Sheffield who laughed when he saw it, pointing out that the rest of Britain still has places like this, whereas in north London they’re treated a kind of arch, ironic joke.
7. Luxury flats built on a public right of way
Princes Park, a controversial new development of luxury flats in Kentish Town. They were built on Dalby Street, a public highway connecting a main road with a sports centre; so the flats could be built Camden Council sold the road to the developer; it was only the second time in the history of London this had happened.
8. Hoe Street, Walthamstow
Hoe Street, Walthamstow – 24 estate agebts in total – making it Britain’s most estate-agent infested High Street.
As creative types are forced further our of London new creative communities are springing up in unexpected areas bringing with them new businesses, pop ups, and events. Maybe you preferred your neighbourhood before the hipsters moved in?
10. Emirates Stadium?
The last I went to see my team (Leeds) play at Arsenal, I chanced my arm having a drink in a Gooner pub on the Holloway Road. A couple of blokes rumbled me but rather than have a go, they ended up telling me about their campaign to get rid of the yuppies at their ground. They thought it’d help restore the old atmosphere.
11. Capital Towers
Advert for Capital Towers, new development near Olympic Park, Stratford. Fully private. No social housing!
12. How much?
Rising prices in London have also led to other increases, not least in the numbers of tiresome Northerners who spend their entire visits to the capital complaining about how expensive things, as if people who live here haven’t already noticed.
13. A last bohemian gasp
The Kentish Towner, notes that the Victorian villas and workshops around Hawley Street in Camden were home to musicians, squat parties and artists. They escaped the fire of 2008, but from next month the canalside area will be demolished as part of the ongoing redevelopment of the markets area. The Real Art of Street Art collective have marked the imminent demise by decorating the buildings, in a burst a creativity that The Kentish Towner calls “Camden Town’s last bohemian gasp.”
14. Constant redevelopment
One consequence of the wave of redevelopment affecting London is the constant uncovering of old shop signs. Layers of history are stripped away; you can’t say it’s a bad thing, as in many cases the signs are more attractive than what was covering them, and are kept intact.
15. Creative businesses evicted
17 creative businesses in Soho were given notice of eviction to make way for 9 luxury flats
16. The £8 chocolate bar
Mast Brothers, a new artisanal choclatier on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, is going for an Apple-store-minimalism-cum- craft-beer-style-authenticity vibe. They make their own chocolate at the back in stainless steel vats and it comes in exciting flavours like “Stumptown Coffee” and “Vanilla and Smoke”. By buying their confectionaries you’re celebrating “the delicious work of food artisans”. It’s all very elegant and modish except for the fact it costs £8 for a chocolate bar or £85 for a box set of 12. Which seems a lot when you can buy a Bounty for 80p at the newsagents down the round. But then, what price good taste, eh?
17. Avantgarde Tower
This apartment block on the egde of Shoreditch is called Avantgarde Tower. Its name is not ironic.