Art against gentrification & social cleansing
We have gathered together a few examples of art being used to fight against social cleansing. We support and celebrate creative actions by people to defend the lives, rights and communities under threat by the local authorities, investors and developers that threaten us. We'd love to share more examples - please let us know of any, especially ones you are involved in, or planning! Click the images for links.
The Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement is a coalition born from the complex specificities of Los Angeles. We are new and old friends who find ourselves at the intersection of multiple overlapping struggles. We have come together to confront the current crisis of evictions and abusive real estate practices in L.A., to question the role of culture in gentrification and the narrative of ‘inevitability,’ and to push to stop displacement in its tracks.
Concrete Heart Land exposes the social cleansing of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, South London. It marks the moment that the estate was finally lost as social housing to make way for an unjust 'regeneration' scheme. Over the course of 2012 and 2013, we filmed panoramic video images of the estate and interiors of some of the Heygate flats, both of which feature in the film. These images are of the estate as it was at its end, blighted by Southwark Council's lack of maintenance and their leasing of it as a film set for 'grimy', 'urban' and 'dystopian' cinematic settings. Assembled from 12 years of archive materials, our film charts the struggles of the local community to keep their homes, stay living in the area, and maintain communal benefits in the face of extreme development pressures. Throughout the film we hear the community engaging in some of the crucial battles with elected officials, planners and barristers, in municipal planning meetings, public enquiries and interviews.
Inserted among these recordings are various sections of a performance we staged in 2012 on the then still-inhabited estate. An assembled group of past and present residents, community activists and critics of the Heygate plans, chant texts composed from phrases used in the Regeneration Masterplan. The performance parodies the technical language of regeneration and the aspirational language of gentrification.
Five points prior to any discussion about launching a cultural counterweight against the current launching of Rotterdam as cultural capital of the Netherlands (2006).
BAVO's cultural activism is a powerful form of critique. Their Plea for an uncreative city attacks Richard Florida, city branding and the Creative Class. It remains an essential read today.
Check out more of their work on their website.
Rab’s work intersects with a long-term debate in urban culture and policy regarding the relationships between environment and behaviour, particularly in the context of the current housing crisis in the United Kingdom. His practice-based research has a particular focus on the effects of gentrification on the vulnerable, and in particular on the socially excluded and insecurely housed.
The regeneration of Balfron Tower continues to this day amidst conflicting political views and planning controversies over the regeneration plans. Following a reported £8 million refurbishment, a co-development partnership between registered social landlord Poplar HARCA, LondonNewcastle & Telford Homes, all 146 flats will be controversially sold on the open market, the antithesis to their original purpose as provision of social housing.
Witnessing first-hand the brutality with which working-class communities were being “decanted” and displaced by a Registered Social Landlord working with luxury property developers, Rab founded Balfron Social Club in 2014 which campaigns for the retention of a minimum of 50% social housing in all regeneration projects built in or upon social housing estates. He is a founding member of Artists Against Social Cleansing.
South London spoken word artists and activist has made a defining work about the social cleansing of South London, The Rhyming Guide to Housing.
The video of part 1, Estates of War, is filmed on the Cressingham Gardens estate which Southwark Council plans to demolish soon.
Potent Whisper blows apart all the fake "positive" spin that developers use to explain "regeneration" eloquently and powerfully.
Lucinda Rogers is a reportage artist and activist who often focuses her practice on the social impact of regeneration.
She is currently working on a series for a show at House of Illustration called On Gentrification about Ridley Road Market in Hackney.
In 2015 she made a series called Employment Land Portfolio which documented the threats to and loss of traditional industry in Tottenham.
While her work is clearly an observational commentary, her hope is that on seeing it people will become better informed, question what is going on, speak out against it.
We are local people who aren’t particularly happy about what is going on in the name of ‘regeneration‘. If we seem particularly negative about things, it’s not because we think regeneration is always a bad thing. It’s just seems to us that it’s always a bad thing when local people’s needs are only superficially understood and cared about. What happens when local people are ridden over roughshod can easily be demonstrated: Take a look back at the ‘regeneration’ of Covent Garden, Wapping, Spitalfields, Shoreditch, Hoxton and take a look at what’s going on now in Hackney and Dalston. These have been disastrous for local people who want to keep decent council housing and the local community of open spaces and shops that goes with it.
We don’t think it’s wrong to demand that a regeneration scheme enhances the quality of our lives. We don’t think it’s wrong to oppose gentrification. In this way it turns out that our negativity is really only a mask for our positive wish for all of us to live our lives free from those who pretend to act in our interests but are only ever about giving even more of what we’ve got away to those who already have too much.
The Wards Corner Community Coalition (WCC) is a grassroots organisation working to stop the demolition of the homes, businesses and indoor market above Seven Sisters tube station and fighting the attempts of Grainger PLC to force out the local community. Active since 2007 the WCC has been working to empower the community in Seven Sisters to take control of its future and determine how Wards Corner should be developed.
Faced with social and ethnic cleansing, and to be issued with CPOs, which the community is challenging, one of the positive and true art actions the community has taken is to dance.
How can Haringey Council possibly demolish this vibrant, creative community??