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Nowadays it can be seen that a lot of cities in the world are being affected of both gentrification and commodification processes. Among them we could mention for example Brixton and Brick Lane, which have experienced that although not in the same way. Those area's citizens has also reacted differently to the changes this has led to the day life. In this way, the consequences of gentrification and commodification of culture will be analyzed in this paper, comparing and contrasting the effects in Brixton and Brick Lane. I will give my opinion and my point of view during this essay, and I will finish drawing my own conclusion.
Gentrification is a process by which mostly middle-income people decide to move to poorer people's home places, with the aim of helping to redevelop and "fix-up" the deteriorated houses and sometimes the businesses of the area. These middle-income people usually tend to be the urban pioneers - in many cases artists and other groups who are tolerant of problems associated with the inner city-. (Briney, A., 2009)
GENTRIFICATION IN BRIXTON
Regarding to Brixton, it was easy to realize the influence that gentrification process has caused when I went to visit the area some weeks ago. I could find people from different places of the world and ethnicities in the streets, being the majority of them Afro-Caribbean.
Gentrification came to Brixton more or less with the Industrial Revolution, with the arrival of tram and railroads. A lot of housing was built around the roads, and middle-high income people were who basically installed there, in the south area of Brixton. (pensandoelterritorio, 2012)
I personally think these middle-high income people -and also young professionals and graduates - might be looking for a place close to the centre of London, affordable houses, or would like to be part of that multicultural atmosphere with a different and a special image that gives Brixton.
Gentrification has caused Brixton a lot of consequences of all kinds, and this phenomenon is basically becoming notorious these days as I had the opportunity to experience it. Close to Brixton's Underground Station, I could find for example a new development that was being built, the Brixton Square.
Unfortunately, the new demand of wealthy people pushes the prices of the houses up. In fact, some data that I could collect shows for example that there has been an increase in prices as much as 15 per cent. (Bryant, M., 2012) As a result, a large amount of Brixton's original residents are not able to afford them and are forced to leave the district -at least they come back for the everyday activities-. I see that behavior of investors as not politically correct, because they are pushing out people who have spent maybe all life living in Brixton and are even those who have constructed the identity of the district.
I would also understand some citizen's attitudes against some revolutions that may to be carried out. For example, what might a resident think about removing the Brixton Market? From my point of view, I would disagree with the fact of losing everything my hometown represents, regarding to the historical area, the marina, etc. In addition, I think that in many cases these high income people who push all this movement just look at their own interest to make business or to become wealthier, without putting in other people's shoes. That is a too selfish attitude.
However, from my point of view, gentrification has also helped Brixton for example to improve the life in the area and to solve a number of issues. I consider that that was a big necessity for the district, as now crimes are less than in the past, a lot of jobs have been created, education system is much better, etc. Therefore, that will for sure appeal a bigger affluence of tourists to the zone, and that is good for Brixton.
GENTRIFICATION IN BRICK LANE
When it comes to Brick Lane's gentrification, this process started in the 90s. The high prices of housing in London pushed some artists and musicians to the east, in search of cheaper studios or flats. Every generation of artists who were going to gain fame then, such as the YBA (Young British Artists), moved to the area. (Montes, J.,2004)
Consequently, I think this movement affected in a bad way to Brick Lane's local artists, as they were forced to leave the area due to the higher rents that they couldn't afford. If we analyze gentrification's consequences from the point of view of culture, more and more computer art companies and graphics are taking over the area, so Brick Lane's original creativity is falling down as time passes, what is a pity.
However, yet despite the gentrification attempts, as I could see when I went to Brick Lane last weekend, it remains almost exclusively Asian (Hughes, J. and Clarke, H., 1999). I realized that the Bangladeshi community remains as the most noticeable ethnicity, followed by the Asian community, although there was also a high presence of tourists or different people from all over the world, such as British, Pakistani, Indian or American people.
Besides, the streets of Brick Lane were not so developed and the poverty was evident as I was walking down the streets. Because of that, I could remark that Brick Lane has not suffered the gentrification process as other places in the world, and as a result it remains being one of the poorest areas in Britain.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
After analysing the effects that gentrification has induced to Brixton and Brick Lane, I think there is an evident difference between the two areas.
Regarding to Brixton, the influence has been more noticeable. I personally think that Brixton needed an improvement when it comes to crime and drug levels, infrastructure, etc., so gentrification has helped a lot in that matter. It has also helped in the business sense, creating employment, attracting more tourists, etc. As a result, we can see the good aspects of gentrification.
In the negative aspects we could mention for example people who have been forced to move out among other evidences, but I think the good aspects in general overweight the negative aspects.
Related to Brick Lane, we can say that it remains almost the same as before the gentrification process, due to the strength of the Bangladeshi community mainly.
As a conclusion, I could say talking in general that both places have been helped by the gentrification process. However, in both cases from my point of view it should be taken into account when carrying out the developments the thoughts and opinions of the local residents, as they may have passed all the life in that place so they need to be respected if they want the culture to be maintained, etc.
Commodification is the transformation of goods, ideas, or other entities that may not normally be considered as goods into a commodity (encyclo, 2012). The process of commodification can also be spread out to the culture. I say that because when the newcomers install in an area, they little by little finish establishing their culture in the new zone, replacing the culture that was predominant before their arrival. Finally, that culture could end being accepted or not by the original residents.
COMMODIFICATION IN BRIXTON
The commodification process that Brixton has suffered can be explained by the evolution that Britain had in the 1940s and 50s, when lots of immigrants from the West Indies came to settle in there. Among them could be mentioned for example people from Jamaica, who touched down on the Empire Windrush ship in 1948 and settled in Brixton. (Hannah, 2010)
This mass influx of Afro-Caribbean ethnicity has greatly influenced Brixton as I could experience while walking around the district. In this way, I came across with Caribbean restaurants or listened when walking down the market the Patois language more than once (Jamaican dialect).
The environment of the area and the feature of being so colorful also make me realize the influence that Jamaican community has brought to Brixton. When I went to the Brixton Market, for example, I saw different Jamaican clothes, flags, cultural books, souvenirs, some Jamaican icon's images such as Bob Marley, etc. Obviously, in every corner I could find reggae music shops.
Furthermore, the culture is so established that every year "Brixton Splash" is hosted in Brixton, where people from all over London are met to celebrate Jamaican's Independence Day, within a lively environment -carnival athmosphere, great music and good food-.
However, Brixton has also been influenced by other countries such as Latin countries, and there were lots of South American butchers or restaurants for example when I went there. That impressed me a lot, because at the beginning I thought Brixton would be a place less multicultural with a clear dominance of Afro-Caribbean community, and however, I came across with more variety than expected. I think this multiculturalism will progressively increase over time.
Apart from that, it is important to remark also that not all things that Jamaicans have brought are good. In fact, Brixton has long held a reputation for being the drugs capital of London. That's because as you walk down the streets, for example, you may see people smoking cannabis or a lot of dealers offering you drugs: 'What do you want? Draw? Coke? Rock?'. Those are some common words that you can hear in Brixton at nights, considered almost impossible walking more than a few paces without being accosted. (Thomson, T., 2002)
COMMODIFICATION IN BRICK LANE
I easily realized the commodification of culture during my visit to Brick Lane.
First of all, I could appreciate in the zone a large amount of curry houses and Indian restaurants, logically spicy food being present practically everywhere. Outside them I could find some greeters with the aim of inviting passers by to try their establishment. As a result, we can see the effect of the Bangladeshi Community in the food of the area. It may be because of that also that the area is known as Bangla Town, and due to the high presence of Bangladeshi people who caught my attention as well.
However, as I strolled through the Sunday Up Market or other restaurants, I could also find diverse choice of food from other countries, such as Mexican, Spanish, Moroccan, etc., showing the area's multicultural diversity. That environment gives Brick Lane a special charm in my opinion.
Furthermore, another important aspect of commodification of culture to highlight is the street art. You can find in the place different art galleries, enjoy free music festivals, dancing or entertainment shows, or graffities and pieces of photography, in a relaxed atmosphere.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
The commodification of culture can be easily noticed in both Brixton and Brick Lane. Brixton has been affected mainly by the Afro-Caribbean people, whereas Bangladeshi people are those who have caused an effect in Brick Lane. However, as I have mentioned before, we can find other culture's influence in both areas as well, giving as the idea of multiculturalism.
Commodification of culture in both places can be appreciated because of the restaurants or the food of the area, the language spoken, or as you walk through the market and you come across with such different and special ambiance or smell. It is obvious that both cultures have achieved little by little to settle in the area.
The main difference between both places is that commodification has not only affected Brixton in a positive way, as it has also gained the reputation all over the world of not being a safe place to live, due to its high rates of crime, drug, violence, etc.
Because of that, I think Brick Lane has an advantage and people are more willing to go there rather than Brixton. However, I would also like to remark that Brixton is not as dangerous as in the past because of the investments that have been done, so the future is not as dark as it seems.
In short, it is obvious that in general gentrification and commodification have influenced in a positive way to Brixton and Brick Lane, even though both processes have negative aspects as well as I mentioned before.
For example, regarding to the gentrification, this has helped to improve the area's infrastructure and general life on the whole, especially when it comes to Brixton and basically related to the safety.
Another aspect that has caught my attention is that both are very multicultural places, even more than I thought at first, and that's what gives a special charm to both areas.
I would also want to remark that I considered too selfish the attitude of the investors, who just look at their own benefit and don't consider the residents' preferences.
Finally, I would like to add that I have been in both places and that it is worth to visit them, in order to know other cultures and live new experiences, among many other reasons.