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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, September 21, 2003
    Cultural regeneration / spatial sterilisation?
    Working up to a conversation about what Capital of Culture means in terms of the impact on the people's lives, today I've:
      (a) Led worship for eight in a committee room of a massive Victorian vicarage next door to a church having tens of thousands of pounds spent on it to satisfy heritage types, in an area of the city lacking decent housing and other basic amenities;

      (b) Journeyed around an outer estate where hundreds of homes have no shops, pubs, anything, except on the outer fringes where the usual McDonalds / Showcase / Asda sheds cluster, where new private mini-mansions hide behind high walls designed to exclude their neighbours in the council buy-back semis which surround them;

      (c) Found some interesting articles on the web, particularly one in MetaMute 26 about 'cultural' regeneration in Hackney. Remember the siege last year which resulted in one man dead? It took place in an area converting from a vibrant (if shabby) quarter to a newly-gentrified gated place. Mute describes it thus:

      The Hackney Siege was a £1 million pound project for the spatial sterilisation of the area adjacent to the Town Hall Square. Lasting 15 days, it deployed squads of paramilitary police round the clock and shut down several streets and a major road. 43 Hackney residents were trapped inside their homes, some without television, from Boxing Day 2002 until well after twelfth night. A further 200 residents were compulsorily displaced on the order of the authorities during the course of the project.

      The siege was about moving people out of the area, the ones who didn't 'fit' there anymore. Or, as Mute sees it,

      The borough of Hackney in the East End of London [is] a microcosm of contemporary power processes. Long a dumping ground for London's poor, Hackney is becoming an increasingly regulated space of flows, where, in the name of life and culture, 'regeneration' incubates gentrification and new forms of biopolitical control.