Just to let you know: our city is under threat. Not from aliens, fire, plague, religious nutjobs or rising sea levels (though don’t rule any of those out) but from massive faceless powers. Powers who want to redevelop your local, close your favourite venue, price the struggling families out of your street, spoil a fine view and shit in your garden (if you’ve got a garden. You probably don’t). Annoying, right? And it doesn’t end there.
Because if London is under threat, the Londoner is under threat. So that’s you, and it’s your tube driver this morning, your barista right now, your barman after work, your waiter this evening, your band tonight, your DJ after that, and the cabbie who takes you (and whoever you’ve managed to lasso) home. The fear is that ordinary Londoners, all 9 million of us, won’t be able to live here any more, priced out by massive rents and driven out by sheer boredom at the sameyness of our streets. And if we go, everything great goes with us. The art, the music, the food, the drink, the atmosphere, the madness and that thing that makes you go ‘Fuck me! Only in London…’ Once it’s all gone, it will never come back. But all is not lost. Yet. If you love London, you can do something about it. Make your voice heard, sign that petition, join the Facebook group. We’ve found some causes you could get involved with right now. It’s time to save our city.
Save our rents!
London rents rose by 3.4 percent last year, while wages remained static. Fair rent campaigners Generation Rent think it’s time we followed the examples of New York and Paris by introducing measures for tougher rent control – such as capping monthly rent at half the annual council tax bill for a property. It would give more power to tenants, and mean we could go out once in a while rather than crying into our Aldi instant noodles every night.
DO SOMETHING Get involved with the local renters’ group in your area. You can find a list of London groups at www.generationrent.org. Oh, and quit your property porn addiction.
Save our housing!
London needs homes, and fast. And those homes should be for people who actually live in London. Many swanky new developments are required to offer affordable housing (usually about 35 percent of flats), they usually fail to meet that quota: it’s down to 10 percent at Bishopsgate Goods Yard, where new high-rises are due to be built. Ordinary people living on ordinary streets isn’t a perk, it’s what a city is. As opposed to a game of Monopoly.
DO SOMETHING: March for the Aylesbury Estate! Meet at Burgess Park at noon on March 14, and campaign to have the Elephant & Castle estate refurbished for its residents, not bulldozed.
When the white-hot centre of London’s cabaret scene, Madame Jojo’s, closed at the end of last year, it wasn’t just a bad day for men in heels, it was a mascara-running-down-the-face shame for any Londoner who loved that the bizarre, the polysexual and the downright fucked could exist cheek-by-jowl with the tourist bait of the West End. Soho: if it ain’t fixed, don’t break it.
Save our artists!
Artists change things. They see the potential in Peckham car parks and Seven Sisters squats. Some of them are dickheads, but those dickheads have driven the cultural regeneration of much of the capital. Now they’re running out of affordable workspaces in a city of empty buildings. Support the artists. Don’t let them all go to Berlin!
DO SOMETHING Join in with Somewhereto_ which helps artists and entrepreneurs find cheap creative spaces.
Save our gay scene!
The London we know and love is a sexually liberated pantheon of pleasure and a properly inclusive place to call home. That’s why the closure of The Joiners’ Arms in January felt so ominous. The pub-cum-club on Hackney Road was a classless community that gave rise to many a legend and 4am adventure. It was vital in helping the East End’s queer scene find its feet.
DO SOMETHING Join the Friends of The Joiners’ Arms at Common House (Unit 5e Pundersons Gardens, E2 9QG) on March 31 and help them turn the pub into an LGBTQIA Community Centre. Then party at Sink the Pink.
Save our raves!
Grime, D&B, dubstep and filthy bass grew out of ballsy, legally dubious parties in dirty warehouses, and long nights in packed sweatboxes. Now our dance scene’s losing its clubs under pressure from councils, developers and refusenik residents. The closures of Turnmills, Cable and Plastic People have helped put the rave in graveyard. Club culture is the beating heart of London: it can’t be allowed to flatline. Cos it’s just not the same listening to Jamie XX bangers on your mate Steve’s iPhone.
DO SOMETHING Rave until 8am! You can still go hard at the Hydra, a warehouse-style night at Studio Spaces in E1. Book tickets now for the next event on April 2.
Save our skyline!
Of London’s 44 buildings over 100 metres high, 25 have been built since 2000, and another 31 have been approved. In other words, our city is turning into a monster of glass and steel. We’re not against a bit of height (or girth), but an erection that looks like a storage unit for Christian Grey’s pants? No thanks. Stay classy, London. It’s not size, it’s what you do with it.
DO SOMETHING Get to know London’s buildings better. New London Architecture runs walking tours pointing out the good, the bad and the ugly around different areas of the city for £15 - sign up here.
Save Tin Pan Alley!
It’s where the Stones kicked their heels, Bowie had lunch and Sex Pistols hung their pants out to dry (the band used to live at number 6). Denmark Street is the spiritual home of London’s music biz and the capital’s only place to go guitar window-shopping. Now Crossrail (which did for the Astoria) is gunning for Tin Pan Alley. But never mind the developers: the squatters have been in, the slogans are being daubed and the great unwashed are getting gobby. It’s punk all over again!
DO SOMETHING Join broadcaster Henry Scott-Irvine’s campaign to save the street. And go down to Hank’s Guitar Shop (at number 27) to get yourself a new axe.
Save our live music venues!
God save the scene! Making music and playing it very, very loudly is something we’re effing good at. But London’s tiny, sticky stages are under threat. The Buffalo Bar in Islington closed at the fag end of 2014. Now, The George Tavern in the East End is in danger of succumbing to the property developers. We invented punk in London’s scrappy, toilet venues. As far as we can tell, there’s no definable music genre emerging out of the burgeoning London buy-to-let scene.
DO SOMETHING Add your voice at www.savethegeorgetavern.com. And go see the Fortitude Magazine showcase of House of Savages on Thursday March 12.
Save our past!
Norton Folgate is a hotchpotch of small Spitalfields streets packed with eighteenth-century charm. Now a huge redevelopment scheme is set to shatter its quiet atmosphere for ever. The last few months have also seen the demolition of several Georgian buildings on Dalston Lane in Hackney, which survived the Blitz and the 1970s, only to be bulldozed in the twenty-first century.
Save our air!
Levels of nitrogen dioxide on Oxford Street broke the EU limit for the whole of 2015 over just four days in January. As many as 4,000 Londoners die prematurely every year due to air pollution; and if we don’t want face masks to become the next fashion trend, we need to clean up our act, pronto. City Hall is planning to introduce an Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London. But that won’t come into force until 2020, so I wouldn’t hold your breath. Actually, do.
DO SOMETHING Keep up to date at cleanair.london. Then take a stroll up to Primrose Hill.
Save our arches!
You can find almost anything in a London railway arch, from a large bearded gentleman in fetishwear to a posh artisinal espresso. The small shops in the arches around Brixton Station are a case in point. Fishmongers LS Mash & Sons have been there since 1932, there are eye-popping textiles at Denmay Fabrics and luscious queen olives at A&C Continental Deli. But now, in a prime piece of arch-villainy, they’re facing eviction because of rail expansion plans.
DO SOMETHING Follow Brixton Buzz for updates on the arches, and sign the blog’s petition to protect them. Then make tracks of the non-rail variety to LS Mash (11 Atlantic Road, Brixton) and get some fresh oysters before they close for ever.
Save our pubs!
Wherever you live in London, chances are there’s a former pub near you that’s been either converted into flats or boarded up and left to its fate. The Gun in Spitalfields closed its doors recently, while the nearby Duke of Wellington is contesting a planning application it claims would put it out of business. There is hope, though: the Wenlock Arms in City Basin was saved from demolition after a vigorous campaign, while the Ivy House in Nunhead was taken over by locals and is now run as the city’s first community pub. Our pubs: booze in ’em or lose ’em.
DO SOMETHING Help save Hackney’s Chesham Arms from redevelopment, then – for pubs’ sake! – go out and have a bloody pint.
Save our cinemas!
The capital used to have hundreds of picturehouses. Now one borough (Lewisham) relies on a single, volunteer-run cinema. It’s a disgrace! Elsewhere, death by redevelopment looms for flicks big and small. The mighty Curzon Soho, where generations of Londoners have discovered that not all films are in English, is in the path of Crossrail 2, while the Grade II-listed Walthamstow Granada (closed since it was bought by a church in 2003) may become an Antic novelty pub.
Save our people power!
Because we can really make a difference. When we speak together London can’t fail to be heard, as was proved last year at the New Era Housing Estate in Hackney. The estate was to be taken over by an American asset-management firm, with rent hikes and evictions on the cards. But a protest begun by a single mum and joined by thousands (including some bloke called Russell Brand) overturned the decision; and the estate was instead given to an affordable-housing group who are seeking to ensure fair rents for the poorest occupants. Result! Though there is more protest work to be done.
And finally… save our home!
This city is where we live: it’s not an investment opportunity for most of us; it’s not part of a portfolio. It’s our home. Like most homes, London is a bit untidy, could use a little work, isn’t always as well looked after as it could be and is expected to fulfil multiple functions at the same time. We all have to live, work, eat and sleep here. Plus throw the occasional party. Give us that (not too much to ask, surely?) and in return you’ll get the greatest city on the planet. Not the biggest, not the most profitable, not the one with the most shiny towers, but the best. That’s the real investment. Londoners are more switched on and motivated to make changes than ever before. We just want a home that reflects us.
DO SOMETHING There are currently more than 200 London-based petitions running on Change.org, attempting to save libraries in Lambeth and find the floating Word on the Water bookshop a permanent mooring. And you can make a difference with dozens of London campaigns and petitions.