Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Shoreditch Conundrum: a history lesson

by Alastair Pusinelli.

The pop-ups, the hipsters, the micro-brewed ales; an image that has been sprouting in areas of London over the past decade. It all started with Notting Hill back in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, which was often referred to as the British answer to Greenwich Village. W11 was riled with artists, musicians and community activists. But come the ‘80s, gentrification was in full effect and Notting Hill, with its stylish architecture and open setting, was a hotspot for upper middle class families.

So where did these free-spirited arty types turn to next? In the mid ‘90s the hipsters travelled six miles east to the ‘faceless’ Shoreditch, an area for light industrial firms which was suffering from a lack of identity. However, artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst moved to the area just before the turn of the century, and a wave of creative types soon followed. Since then Shoreditch has been transformed into the trendy, arty hipster capital of London. Over the years the area became more and more popular, with several technology companies basing their offices around Old Street during the second ‘dot-com’ boom at the start of the current decade.

Well it seems that Shoreditch has now had its day and our beloved hipsters are on the move again. The current crop of bearded, beanie wearing folk now believe it is uncool to live in such a popular area, with house prices on the rise and cereal caf├ęs round every corner.

So where have they taken their ale stained vintage sweaters to? Well it appears now that the hipster population of London is now splitting up. The buzz of the Olympics saw many migrate to Hackney and nearby Dalston, but you will also find ironic cigarette rolling south of the river. Hipster sightings have been reported in Peckham, Crystal Palace and Streatham, with others heading to the northern reaches of Walthamstow and Tottenham.

So why these areas? As much I’d like to suggest that these places have a draw because of a thriving community or effervescent nightlife, the simple fact is that these places are cheap. If we look at Hackney, between the consensuses of 2001 and 2011, there was a 65% change in workers to the sector of culture, media and sport, a notoriously underpaid field for under 40s.

It’s so easy for these media types to commute into the City for work and there is no doubt that these areas will grow like Shoreditch did, and at a faster rate. It took over ten years for Shoreditch to emerge from the shadow of Notting Hill, and it has only taken a couple years for Dalston to come to the fore, and the hipsters are already on the move again.

So it seems that ‘uncoolness’ is the key to make a place popular, so the only question that remains is will the hipsters get fed up of the capital? I hear Devon is lovely at this time of year…