Suits in Hardhats: A Guide to Gentrification

Writer Mark Roberts

From Shoreditch, to Brixton, to Peckham, London is a great example of how gentrification moves in waves. This process, which uproots local creative scenes and more importantly prices out local communities, is now (in my opinion) here in Brum.

For what seems like forever ago, some government busybody decided that what our neglected railway system needed was one big, really, really expensive railway line.

The HS2 project, whether intentional or not, hasn’t successfully connected the two ends of England, but will turn Birmingham into another grey, increasingly unaffordable satellite city for London.

A Slough 2.0., Reading: The Return of The Office Worker.

It, amongst other ‘development projects’ are the first formidable signs that the change is coming.

Which is why the primary indicator of gentrification is…


Suits in Hardhats

The first thing you should look out for are suits in hardhats. They’ll be in a group between two and twenty people – bigger the group the bigger the idea they have to ruin your area. This could be HS2 or it could be a brand-new housing block that will somehow lose the affordable housing part of it just before it is built.

Either way, they’ll be there, pointing at the wrong parts of the site and nodding aimlessly as if the last time they saw anyone build something wasn’t when they employed that guy to extend their indoor swimming pool.

This is always the beginning.


The Pretentious Bar

Picture this, you walk into a room and there you see exposed brick, all around you are tables and stools from your science classes and you see a gentleman with a massive beard behind the bar.

You look above the bar to see exposed ventilation, your palms are sweaty. You look at the price board. There it is in black and white, £8 for a 1/3rd pint of a dry hopped-raspberry-double maple-lassi-pancake-saison. You hold back tears as your back crumbles under its own weight on the hard wooden stool.

All you wish is that you hadn’t had that avocado on toast this morning, maybe then you could afford your overpriced drink (and/or a mortgage).


The Yuppie

The yuppie is an indicator of the end times for any area.

Nothing is less cool than a yuppie, so unaware, so arrogant. Imagine you’re still in that pretentious bar, your back now a series of loosely stacked pebbles. You hear a loud disturbance coming from the other side of the room. You look across, there he is, the banker (sorry for using cockney rhyming slang, they’re actually a stockbroker).

They’re screaming into a phone on loudspeaker/Bluetooth headset. “Yah Reggie, I was just on the phone with Daddeh”. You try to zone out but their voice drills into your head. The barman asks them what they want, “I’m on the phone” they rebuff.

You realise they bought a pint of the 1/3rd you’re drinking. Bastard.


The Chains

Another omen of the end times for your area is the ‘cool’ chain clubs and bars. If it’s trying to look worn down and independent but isn’t, if it’s got a quirky cultural theme but it’s not run by someone from that culture or thinks plastic trees are acceptable decor, then holy shit the gentrification is on. And it’s happening fast.

They’ll raise the prices of the booze in the area, caring not for creativity but profit. Worse, they attract…


The Basics

You can smell them in the air, the Selfridges’ fragrance department aftershave and perfume permeates the air. Their unisex fake tan entirely at odds with the patriarchal ideas pouring out of every word they say.

They’ll be there, giving the stink eye to anyone who isn’t trying to live up to their white heteronormative beauty standards, as they slowly push out everyone from the dance floor and out of these creative spaces. Until it’s just a sea of bare ankles, skinny jeans and stilettos.

Fun fact, the ratio of basics to the room is actually entirely correlated to levels of gentrification.


Noise complaints

As the suits in hardhats fade away and the giant Duplo blocks rise up slowly filled by basics so do the noise complaints. It turns out no one expected that living next door to a live venue that plays DnB until 6am would be loud? So, the understandable measure is to allow people to complain about noise levels until a venue shuts down.

We wouldn’t want to put out as the owner of a 1 bed flat that’s £1500pcm, so the council must defend their right to ruin culture. And as noise complaints rise, venues close and the life and soul of the area fades away.

This has been just some of the indicators of gentrification. If you’re struggling to find a £5 pint in Digbeth and a spot of sun not masked by a crane, try not to think of this article too much. Or maybe choose a venue that cares about you at least half as much as they care about profit, while you still can.