The south London neighbourhood is Britain in microcosmby Jay Elwes / April 27, 2015 / Leave a comment
On Saturday, around 1,000 people gathered in Windrush Square in Brixton town centre. Usually it is a place where drinkers and skaters hang out in the afternoons and where sometimes a local church choir will perform hymns for the passersby. But this Saturday, the assembled crowd was there to “Reclaim Brixton,” and to protest about changes that have been taking place in the neighbourhood in recent years.
The event began peacefully, but in the course of the afternoon the mood darkened and things turned nasty. The Foxton’s estate agent on the high street was attacked. A group of protestors broke into Lambeth town hall, which stands opposite Windrush Square, and another got into the police station—in response to which the police used tear gas.
Though a shocking outbreak of violence, for Brixton it counted as a minor disturbance. But what caused it? Among the social media noise, the online statements and the placards, two of the protestors’ complaints stood out: the first concerned housing, the second gentrification. On the first of these, the protesters have a point. On the second, they do not.
House prices in Brixton, as in the rest of the capital, are exorbitant and are in the process of becoming more so. After the financial crisis of 2007, house prices in the south London neighbourhood came to a sharp halt. After a weak period things picked up somewhat, and then prices began to rise sharply. Overall, since 2007, house prices have doubled in Brixton. Now even a modest single bedroom flat near the High…