East London, more specifically Shoreditch, has long been considered one of the fashionable, quirky, arty areas of London where the people dress well and eat cool-nice-instagram-worthy food. It is the home of Brick lane; the street that is always on the tip of everyone’s tongues as the place to be before they’ve even set foot there. It is where the “hipsters” can be found perhaps in a vintage clothing shop or taking 4×4 pictures of the street art to accompany a deep empty quote when placed on the ‘gram. In Shoreditch you also have Boxpark, the world’s first pop-up mall which opened on Bethnal Green Road in 2011. Boxpark hosts 43 independent brands, pop-up shops and casual dining spots, as well as events. The people behind Acoustic Afternoon, Busk the Box and Screened Nights to name a few have done exceptionally well in accommodating local creatives; providing them with a platform to express themselves and to share their art, whilst giving the people something communal to come together and enjoy. At these events there have been the likes of Little Simz, Kojey Radical, PBGR, Samm Henshaw… believe me the list is endless. It is safe to say that East London is widely seen as the go to place for music, entertainment and youth culture. However, I don’t think it is wise to sleep on the other areas of the city – South London being my example for this particular article.
There has been news of Boxpark branching out to Croydon. Generically speaking unlike East London, South London as a whole has many a negative stigma attached to it. Unfortunately when established publications write about the worst or the most dangerous areas to live in London; Brixton, Lewisham, Peckham, Croydon etc. are amongst the first boroughs to be mentioned (alongside Hackney, East and Tottenham, North to avoid bias). Even stepping away from the words of these established but disconnected publications and looking at the words of Londoners themselves, many who live outside of the south will talk about how they grew up in fear of stepping into the south side. I personally love South London for its rawness, its character and for the very many excellent creatives emerging from the area right now. The likes of Stormzy who has taken his career to new heights, A2, 808INK and Neverland Clan to name a few. With their individual visions, their art and the hard work that doesn’t go unnoticed, they are carving out their own niches, establishing their own unique sounds music-wise, breaking down barriers and cultivating excellence. Ultimately, they are shifting the negative perceptions of their home.
So, Boxpark founder and CEO Roger Wade claims that he wants to “everyone to re-think their view of Croydon” but the question is, is his vision really for the people of South London? There is no doubt that placing his business at the centre of South London’s “development” as they like to call it, works greatly in favour of Mr Wade’s business in the long-run. We’ve seen Foxtons and Starbucks, could Boxpark become the new sign of gentrification?
“We’re criticised for only appealing to Shoreditch hipsters and now for moving into an area that’s not hip enough… People living or working in Croydon are poorly served. Let’s face it, everyone likes good food and drink.”
Now this quote, in fact a few of the quotes from this “evolution of a revolution” I have very slight qualms with. Everyone likes good food and drink, I mean yeah food is fashion now, but is it affordable for the majority to indulge in on a regular basis? As an everyday thing? Nah.
When talking about re-thinking the view of South London, Mr Wade reminds us that “it is the home of Kate Moss and Tracey Emin!!!!”. Oh my goodness! Really?! No way! Excuse my sarcasm, but Kate Moss’ lifestyle is not the current lifestyle of the majority. I suppose her success may be something nice to aspire to but it doesn’t contribute to anything progressive to mine or the next person’s life. It seems to me that Boxpark aims to make Croydon more “developed”, more cool, more affluent, more upmarket. They want to transform people’s lifestyles for the better but let’s face it, cool is expensive and why must Boxpark and the upmarket define what “cool” is? Not everyone can afford this lifestyle that is being sold and Morley’s (for example) – the food that isn’t quite good enough for the cool is a part of the culture. I’m not denying that it isn’t the best thing for you to be putting into your body, but when the cost of living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is significantly high, what can you do? When you’re a student depending on student loan which only just about covers your rent and so you have to get a part-time job whilst you’re studying AND trying to develop your creative career, what can you do? When your job only just about covers you and your family’s basic living expenses, what can you do? It’s a hustle. Sometimes you eat to make sure you’re fed. This obviously goes beyond Boxpark, I’m looking at some of the rippling effects of living in an “up and coming” area. I’m talking about the same issues that sparked the “Reclaim Brixton” protest, because as well as Boxpark there are plans in place for a new Westfield to be built in Croydon by 2018.
“Croydon is one of the last London boroughs to be developed. Stratford, White City and Nine Elms have all seen recent new developments. I want everyone to re-think their view of Croydon. It’s the home of Kate Moss, Tracey Emin and now Boxpark!”
This is reality and this is what many creatives are battling with, not only in South London but everywhere that you can imagine, especially in large cities. So what about the South London creative, what will Boxpark Croydon do for them? Alright, let’s look at the good that will come as a result of the new Boxpark. It, like the Shoreditch base, will be a great spot for people to meet up, for independent businesses and artists to set themselves up and showcase their work. Especially considering that the mall will only be home to independent vendors, thus supporting local businesses.
“We want to put entertainment at the heart and soul of the development”, Boxpark Croydon will have an events space with a capacity of 2,000. So there’s no longer a need to travel to East London to attend events like Busk the Box or a variety of “underground” shows, for the residents of South London they are now moving closer to home. South London could really become the new place to be. Perhaps it is in need of a revamp? I’m interested to know how ALL of you feel about this move, the changes occurring in the South, gentrification, all of it! The floor is open, tweet us @Certified_UK or tweet me @CharisseeC.