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Should I protest against the school dinner themed pop-up?

Written by
Kate Lloyd

A few weeks back we reported on the school dinner themed pop-up opening in Hackney on July 22. The event, called After School Club, is run by Hackney-based curators Art of Dining and carries a £55 cost per head. That fee covers a five-course dinner, a cocktail in a milk bottle, a school tie, homework and an ‘Art and English lesson'.

Now, campaign group Reclaim Hackney has launched a campaign to shut down the event. The group, whose is aim is to 'defend members of our community who are being excluded by fast-paced regeneration of the borough' plans to picket outside the pop-up every day of its two-week run.

They say: 'those people who are foolish enough or rich enough to flaunt their wealth in one of the poorest boroughs of London need to learn the harsh realities many families in Hackney live in'. Adding that, holding a school-themed event in a place where 40 percent of children are on free school meals is 'idiotic'.

The Art of Dining’s Co-founder Alice Hodge told the Hackney Citizen: 'We are devastated. We never meant to cause offence. We love Hackney and we support Hackney every day. We’re totally aware of the problem of poverty in the area.'

While we'd normally side with the people who appear to be fighting gentrification, here's a guide to whether you actually should protest this time. 

'I'm sick of all these expensive themed pop-ups'

Just don't go then. Things like this and Secret Cinema are only viable businesses because people actually pay to go to them. Otherwise, just accept the pop-up exists and move on. London's filled with things that appeal to some and not to others – that doesn't mean we should picket Angus Steakhouse. 

'It seems like an overpriced event for an underprivileged borough' 

At £55, the pop-up is a luxury that some residents might not be able to afford – and that is a valid point worth considering. But, not every business has to service the community. The After School Club is only popping up for two weeks so it's not taking space away from businesses that are useful to more residents in the longterm. It's also worth bearing in mind that Art of Dining is a small Hackney-based business, not a giant corporation, so it's keeping money in the area. 

'What about the children on free school meals?'

Remember when that Channel 4 reporter attacked the Cereal Killer Cafe lads for selling cereal for £3 in Tower Hamlets, one of London's poorest boroughs? This is the same argument again. I guess the key thing here is the fact that the people spending money at the pop-up wouldn't otherwise be donating it to school lunches charities. Art of Dining isn't actively taking away cash from those who need it. The curators say they're donating £5 from every ticket to the Magic Breakfast charity – with each donation paying for 22 meals. 

'Isn't it still a bit tasteless though?'

This one's up to you. But, if you see this pop-up as tasteless, you should probably also consider all the other expensive bars, restaurants and pop-ups in Hackney.  

'Should we use the event as a scapegoat for gentrification?'

You can use it as an example of gentrification in action, but it's probably more effective to protest against the government policy that's led to gentrification, rather than fight against one local business.

Read more about The Art of Dining

Read more about Reclaim Hackney

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