Last Saturday during an anti-gentrification protest on Brick Lane the Cereal Killer café was vandalised, becoming the focal point of protesters anger. At first the attacks looked misguided; an erroneous attack on small business when large corporations in Subway and Pret resided metres down the road. Although in no way agreeing with the actions of the protesters, the root of their anger must surely be looked at and not simply passed off as ‘mindless violence’. The growth of small business is something that should be encouraged and nurtured and so to see one so openly attacked under the banner of ‘gentrification’ is not only alarming but a sign of huge dissatisfaction amongst a portion of society.
East London is, and has always been, one of London’s poorest districts. The organisers at Class War complained they didn’t want luxury flats, pop up gin bars or brioche buns – they want realistically affordable housing for local people… a reasonable argument likely shared by others in poorer parts of London. Nevertheless, this still doesn’t explain why the Cereal Killer Café came under such heavy fire Saturday night. What vilified the Keery brother’s establishment in the eyes of the protesters? Was it the Channel Four interview exposing their high prices? Or were they in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ so to say? The ‘gentrification’ of Shoreditch started way before the Keery brothers set up shop, but unfortunately that night they became a symbol protesters could project their injustice upon.
The truth of the matter is East London’s price tag is rising. Whether it is the cost of homes, commercial property, the price of a beer or even a local snack – and this price is rising without taking into account normal people still live and work in the area. The protesters ignored Subway and Pret as they are simply faceless organisations. The Cereal Killer Café was something protesters could assign a face to; a face they have come to associate with everything they see wrong in London.
And it’s not just housing costs that have sky rocketed in Shoreditch, the price of commercial property has doubled in the last two years, and although we don’t’ expect to see a revolution any time soon, it’s easy to see why many start-ups are looking outside of tech city.
The owners of the Cereal Killer café are not at fault; but nor are those angry enough to take to the streets against them. It is a complex issue engrained in the revival of poorer areas like Shoreditch. Progress in these areas often comes at the expense of those who live there, and unless there is a solution to appease a growing need for fairer prices, we may be seeing scenes like this for a while to come.