From Banlieu to non lieu

Gentrification was pretty much the topic of the first conversation I had with people in what is now my wider circle when I came to live in Paris. Squatters can play both sides, sometimes they’ll be recruited by residents of ‘quartiers populaire” to squat evicted buildings to stop the developers. Other times “artistic squats” will be left to help improve the image of an area; providing leisure and edgy culture for the influx of hipsters.

It could be argued that I form a part of that same process. In 2009 I moved to Liverpool, recent winner of the European Capital of Culture, to study. I arrived in the back of the car driven by my Hampshire bred family through roads and roads of boarded up houses. I was one of many new students who would stay on for a while after studying attracted by low rents, good unis, an outrageuos nightlife and culture and the recent reinvestment and clean up of the city. The street neighbouring the last flat I lived in before moving won the Turner Prize for the work by artists, residents and guerilla gardeners in maintaining a place of life even when the council had already evicted residents in vengence for the riots of the 90’s. I watched as more and more of the old city got turned into luxury student accomodation for wealthy exchange students. Half of the new builds are half empty, and while most scousers aren’t complaining about the renovated Albert Dock, others are asking why we lost the Bombed Out Church, and why the Baltic Triangle is turning into a mini-empire of micro brewerys and beards.

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Above; Granby Streets Market in Liverpool. Photo robbed off their Facebook

The pace of gentrification has accelerated in my nieghbourhood recently. One of the big developers for our area is Sadev. They closed off an entire bloody road this week in order to build a massive block of flats. Every time I go for a walk new billboards are up advertising unfinished luxury appartments built over what were once run-down but beautiful houses. Our friends squatted building has had a portakabin parked in what should be their parking, as the council tries to evict them from a building it doesn’ even own.

The worst is that it’s just so fucking Parisian. It started with Haussman at the end of the th century. All those massive avenues and beautiful (extremely expensive to live in) blocks that line the roads that you found so charming on your weekend getaway were there tp help chase the poor out of the city centre and into the suburbs. The dream of Paris, and Grand Paris, has no space for run down council houses and the socially marginalised.

I’ve started taking photos of gentrification (not added yet but soon to be). I’m going to start mapping it. I feel like there needs to be a witness to the changes as they happen. Too often we allow the changes to slip past us without registering what is happening; that’s part of the gentrification process. As the old residents, reduced to passive non-participants in the planning process, are gradually pushed out so that the new flats come with new sets of eyes. Everytime a new selling office goes up or a home is destroyed I want it recorded.

 

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