View From The Side: Class War, Cereal Killer And Gentrification
Having spent most of my time on social media in the last 24 hours or so flitting between pictures of moons and people reacting to Sunday night's demonstration in Shoreditch, and having been somehow gifted with a spare half hour unexpectedly, I felt as though I might as well weigh in on the debate.
The moon was Anyone who lives or works in Shoreditch or the surrounding areas will know well enough about Cereal Killer, that ludicrously expensive cafe which caters to people who clearly have more money than sense as they could easily get a whole box of the stuff for around about the same price as a bowl. We all laughed at the twins when they first set up the business yet the knowledge that they were in exactly the right area to be successful with a start-up like this soon crept in and we realised that they were a tad more shrewd than we had given them credit for.
When a Channel 4 reporter was busy trying to get on his soapbox as the cafe opened, something hit home. This business has the potential to work. Sure, it's in an area where there are astounding levels of poverty that go unnoticed by many of the top-bun adorned gents and ripped jean/leggings (I don't know enough about female fashion for this bit…) ladies BUT the regeneration and gentrification of the area made it the perfect idea and time. With sales figures and footfall to back up this success, the pair could quite easily be lauded as ingenious entrepreneurs – they came up with something that no-one needed or wanted yet they've managed to pull in the crowds and, for this, I tip my hat to them.
However, it still seems somewhat unsurprising that it was their business that was targetted by protestors on Sunday night – perhaps the way the press covered, and continue to cover, the cafe has some part to play in this – and there's somewhat of a sour-tinged taste left in my mouth as I consider the events just passed. Let me be clear, I have never set foot inside Cereal Killer and do not intend to do so unless I'm able to snag a freebie via the fact that every now and again I do a bit of writing about food. I do not have any knowledge of what the brothers who own the cafe are like and, frankly, I couldn't care less. But I do have sympathy that this independent business has found itself at the heart of this event.
There's no point in me going into details of exactly what happened on Sunday – you can read that anywhere else online. While I agree whole-heartedly with the ideas behind the process, it feels as though they chose the slightly wrong target rather than one that actually stands for the gentrification of the area. While I personally believe in peaceful protests rather than anything that involves the smashing of windows and so on, surely the anger of the people would have been better directed at an establishment such as a Pret, a Foxtons or any other chain that has a presence in Shoreditch.
R$N Towers is situated within incredibly close distance of two Pret A Mangers and it feels, to me at least, that THIS is a more pressing concern than independent places such as Cereal Killer. Endless streams of people are happy to queue up to overpay for coffees, salads and whatever the hell 'quinoa' is, yet the idea of doing the same thing for cereal is widely mocked. People seem to feel a sense of safety in familiarity, hence the rapid growth of businesses like Pret as the familiar logo lets you know exactly what you're in for. Us humans are a dreadfully predictable type and we don't seem to have any desire, on the mostpart, to go out into independent places and try something at the risk that it might not be exactly to our liking.
Plenty of people know that and a few of them are higher-ups in big businesses that thrive on our sheep-like attitudes. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that for a single second that I'm above this and you'll find me in one supermarket or another rummaging through the reduced section on a daily basis. But something needs to change. Those of us who have disposable income shouldn't be throwing it away on over-priced coffees, renting in places we can't really afford or by buying The Independent (alright, not many people actually bother with that last one any more) – we should be making the most of the good fortune that we have and actually try new things rather than falling into the same old routine. I would have loved to have been parading around the streets on Sunday night, arguing how the gentrification of the area is wrong but there would have been something not quite right about that.
Because I'm part of the problem and, by virtue of the fact that you're reading this and haven't dismissed it as codswallop or whatever the young people say nowadays, you are too. I'm not saying that there needs to be a big change overnight but we all need to take a good hard look at where and why we're spending our money and question whether or not there's something better we could be doing. Plenty of people in our community would jump at the chance to be in the positions we're in and yet we can't help but moan about every last thing that goes wrong. Your coffee is a little cold? Tough shit, another family have just been ruthlessly evicted and many more are struggling to hold their lives together.
Something needs to change and it's about time we got off of our high social media horses and actually did something about it.