New business village causes friction online

Thursday 11th June, 2015

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A newly opened business complex made from refurbished shipping containers has sparked accusations of gentrification in South London's online community

Pop Brixton complex opened at the beginning of May

The complex opened at the end of May and small businesses and startups are now moving into the units. They include vintage clothes shops and Gahanna food stalls. The application process for the available office spaces is still ongoing.  

Pop Brixton’s website says it is for “socially minded businesses, committed to making a positive impact on their local community.” Although 85 per cent of business owners live in Lambeth and the site includes subsidised rents, some see Pop Brixton as an emblem of the gentrification that is creeping up on the area.   

Although Twitter was full of positive reviews of the site, on Brixton's online forum, Urban75, "Nanker Phlege" said: "Assorted hipsters were outside smoking. That made the entrance way a bit unwelcoming. As for representing Brixton or the Brixton demographic, I really don't know. The only people of colour [there] were working, serving food and drinks."

The area has struggled with rising rents and at the end of April several thousand people gathered to protest against gentrification.  

Pop Brixton has been likened to Boxpark, the shopping park in East London, which is also made out of shipping containers.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Brixton was renamed ‘New Shoreditch,’” said Alex Irons on Twitter. A portion of fish and chips at the site costs £10. 

One company, which has already started trading from Pop Brixton, is the New Zealand Cellar – a wine shop that raised £35,000 on Kickstarter. This caused a backlash with the London Black Revs declaring online: “This is what gentrification looks like.”  

On the subject of the wine shop, influential local blog, the Brixton Buzz, said: “Pop Brixton was supposed to be about supporting existing local Brixton people right from the outset. Is there really not a Brixton-based drinks company that could do with some rates for mates to help take their business to the next level?”

The site was originally intended to give life to Grow:Brixton, a project that focused on growing food. Carl Turner Architects and The Edible Bus Stop were behind this idea but the two companies behind the project fell out, citing a difference in management styles. 

Carl Turner Architects were allowed to continue working on the site without Pop Brixton but shifted the focus away from gardening and towards small businesses instead. However there is a roof garden set up like a greenhouse.  

Although the council said the project stayed the same, locals say they were not consulted on the changes.  

But one local woman, standing outside Pop Brixton, dismissed gentrification claims: “This isn’t gentrification. In Jamaica, people work out of shipping containers when they can’t afford offices.”