Brixton Village and abundance of cafes

Brixton’s Gentrification: From Riots to Riches

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It’s somewhat ironic that Brixton is now feted as a cultural hub. Contemporary Brixton has come a long way from a history of cultural-clashes, violence and riots, to one of the most sought after postcodes in London.

The catalyst for much of this change has been food, in particular Brixton Market. In 2009, the market decided to lease stalls for free for three months to create a habitat ripe for new businesses to thrive. The savvy move contributed massively to Brixton’s rebirth as a foodie destination. “The market offers more variety of food than any in London,” an enthusiastic stall owner told me from behind a gigantic pot of paella. He’s not wrong.

The market was listed as a building of historical interest in 2012 when Prince Charles and Camilla stopped by to the cut the red tape. Since then, its popularity has mushroomed. Now it’s home to an eclectic mix of some truly stunning eateries. Londoners swear by Mama Lan and it’s unreal Beijing street food. Franco Manca does a seriously mean pizza and if it’s wings you’re after – look no further than ChickenLiquor. Brixton village has it all.

With the market, several prominent music venues, numerous developments and some of the best nightlife to be found in the capital, Brixton is no longer a poster boy of anti-establishment. Taking strides away from the place Amy Winehouse sung about in Me and Mr Jones and The Clash so brutally depicted in Guns of Brixton.

The Clash wrote Guns of Brixton about the Brixton riots of 1981

A resurgent Brixton is now home to a culture crudely grouped as ‘YUPPIES’ – young urban professionals, keen on the area’s proximity to the city and ever expanding art and entertainment scene.

Brixton is following the tried-and-tested success manual set out by early-bloomers Shoreditch and Hackney, and the South London hotspot has seen exceptional growth in recent years. This influx of residents and evening-drinkers is a great thing, sure, but it inevitably sends house prices through the roof.

Like most of London, house prices in Brixton are on the rise to the tune of 15 to 20 per cent since 2009, according to Harmens estate agents. Brixton is not an exception here – more a microcosm of the pressing issue affecting the entirety of London. Neighbouring Camberwell and Clapham, for example, have experienced similar increases – and Stockwell is waiting in the wings.

Current twenty-somethings are destined to rent for the foreseeable future, with steps on the elusive property ladder getting further away. Unless Daddy is a banker, or you were crazy responsible with a nest egg, it’s just not plausible for the vast majority of young people to buy property in London.

Nonetheless, a 2015 study conducted by Time Out concluded that Brixton was the 6th best part of London to live in – with neighboruing Clapham taking the gold medal. A decent performance for a place that was quite literally on-fire in 1981, a genuine no-go area for outsiders.

Nowadays, the place is thriving. The XXs record-breaking (longest ever run of shows at the venue) residency at Brixton Academy this month is further proof of the areas pull. “Doing Brixtons” is increasingly being seen as a more desirable gig than playing one night at the o2. A string of Brixton shows is a move that other prominent entertainers like Mighty Boosh, The Prodigy, Rammstein and Nine Inch Nails have done recently.

An unwanted by-product of any gentrification would be creating mirror images of other areas, diminishing the individuality that makes a place interesting. Brixton’s regeneration has avoided this in the most part. By converting the quintessential large Victorian houses into flats, and paying homage to its vibrant past through graffiti and a multicultural food scene, Brixton has built its future with memories of its past.

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