Change is all too inevitable; we learn to evolve, we adapt and we move on, but some changes, hurt more than others.
Slowly but surely, London is losing the gritty culture it’s renowned for, in exchange for a clinical and respectable facade. Legendary music venues, pubs, theatres and cabaret clubs are regularly being replaced by generic coffee shops, overpriced ‘no bookings’ restaurants and ever bigger train stations.
We are losing our identity to appease commuters, large businesses and multi-million pound developers, who ultimately have the city on puppet strings. London is being sanitised within an inch of its life, it’s not for the benefit of its residents, and tourists do not want to travel to see a new train station or a fast food restaurant – so who is benefiting here?
It’s as though we are putting on a show to win another Olympic Games, sweeping the real issues at hand under the carpet. Do we really need to spend £15.9 billion on a train line, which will still take nearly an hour to get from Maidenhead to Central London – when our National Health Service is falling into disrepair?
Do we really need to spend a further £70 billion on the development of HS2, when there are over 280,000 British citizens living rough on our streets?
Not only are developers ruining London for the people who actually live here, the development of HS2 is going to destroy some of Britain’s most idyllic countryside, all for a train line that many will not be able to afford to travel on.
Soho has always been a place of community, creativity and acceptance – where people dare to be different, and are encouraged to be so. A home to drag clubs, strip clubs, gay bars, music venues, cabaret clubs, sex shops and restaurants offering cuisine from every continent, Soho has always been at the forefront of cultural integration, an exciting and inspirational place to be.
Developers claim that they care ‘passionately’ about the area’s fantastic music and cultural scene, yet gone are the venues which championed legends, such as Jimi Hendrix, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Boy George, Adam Ant and even Adele – soon the only recognisable trait left of Soho, will be its name, just like the archway above Carnaby Street.
After the news of imminent closure, over 25,000 Londoners petitioned to save Denmark Street’s famous 12 Bar Club, begging for the venue to remain intact as part of the development plans. The pleas were flatly ignored, making it clear that developers do not care about those who live here, the regulars, the small thriving communities, which make the high cost of living in London, worthwhile.
Marcus Harris, a former promoter for the recently closed Madame JoJo’s states, “If you look at the way the area is changing, they clearly don’t want a late-night drinking presence anywhere in Soho any more. They want to make Soho about families – shopping, going out to eat, and going to the theatre. The bars shut at 11 and you’re home by midnight.”
The general consensus is that what is left of old Soho has moved to the east and south of London, where rents are affordable, but how long until independent traders are driven out of these areas too? How long will it be until Brick Lane falls prey to a cross-rail extension? Or Brixton Market is abolished in a South London clean up?
Soon, we will be charged to visit parks, train travel will be reserved for the privileged and London will become a playground for the rich; everybody else pushed to the outskirts until driven out completely. London will become a faceless city, and the same as every other.
*Also appears on the Huffington Post
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