I’m still reading London Calling: The Middle Classes and the Remaking of Inner London, which is about gentrification in a few London boroughs. I got to the Docklands, which is just on the Thames River (that river thing seen at the beginning of each Eastenders show), and the way the author describes the area is just odd. The weird thing is the gentrifiers there, absolutely unlike the gentrifiers of Brixton or other areas in the study, apparently have absolutely no interest in building community. Unlike the others, they live in gated communities and only come in contact with the working class and Bengali immigrants, who also inhabit the area, on the subway. The kicker is they have very little interest in interacting with their own neighbors much less the people who live outside their gates. That’s just weird.
I believe I was in the Docklands area in 1993 for a visit to some cultural festival. I was poor and went to anything that was cheap and free. I remember the South Asian girls pushing prams. I think I remember taking a bus through what seemed to be a deserted (no people walking about) but well kept area. The thing that sticks out in my head from that day was it was the first time I had Satay. Because it was only 1 pound for a stick or two and I was too cheap to get a proper meal.
The Dockands seem to be the place for people with money, who want a view of the river and don’t want to be bothered with neighborhood social obligations. They only live in the city for the weekday and head to their other home on the weekend. Still, weird.
Community, building community, is what makes Truxton and the other parts of Shaw great. Apparently it is what makes Brixton and some other gentrifying neighborhoods of London great and attractive too. The thought of people just moving into a neighborhood, helping polarize it, and not wanting to be involved with the people around them, to me that’s just weird.
I read a bit more. Some people like to be anonymous and live a life where they can be anon and left alone.
But still, what makes a great neighborhood, regardless if it is poor, gentrifying, posh/trendy or whatever, is the people and the sense of community they bring. The blokes down at the pub, the cat lady down the street, the artist or musican on the next block, Miffy Wellington over on the next street who throws the best parties (anyone who is anyone is there), the dog people and Old Man Whatshisname out on his evening constitutional all add to whatever community they are in and make their neighborhoods what they are.