25 March 2017 | 6 °C

Opinion

6 Things Worth Protesting At More Than The Cereal Killer Cafe

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 13 months ago
6 Things Worth Protesting At More Than The Cereal Killer Cafe
The Cereal Killer Cafe, post protest. Photo from @CerealKillerUK.

You've probably already heard that on Saturday night, a group of people decided to attack the Cereal Killer Cafe as — in their eyes — a symbol of gentrification. The cafe, which has attracted much opprobrium for charging up to a fiver for a bowl of cereal, was the target of a group carrying flaming torches who threw paint, scrawled 'scum' on the windows and terrified customers inside the cafe, who included children.

It's the handiwork of Fuck Parade, whose Facebook event page declares:

Stand up to gentrification! Our communities are being ripped apart — by Russian oligarchs, Saudi Sheiks, Israeli scumbag property developers, Texan oil-money twats and our own home-grown Eton toffs. Local authorities are coining it in, in a short-sighted race for cash by "regenerating" social housing.

We don't want luxury flats that no one can afford, we want genuinely affordable housing. We don't want pop-up gin bars or brioche buns — we want community. Soon this city will be an unrecognisable, bland, yuppie infested wasteland with no room for normal (and not so normal) people like us.

Thing is, we agree with much of this, but trashing an independent business is the wrong target. If you really feel the need to protest — without, we stress, fire and masks and bottle-throwing and breaking anything; placards and a megaphone, or something creative along the UK Uncut lines please — here are some more worthy targets.

One Hyde Park

The 'buy to leave' phenomenon isn't as widespread as people often think, but if it's rich people using London as a playground you want to protest about, this development symbolises it all. Designed by Richard Rogers and built with money from the Candy brothers and a former prime minister of Qatar, a Vanity Fair article from 2013 showed it to be little more than an empty series of safety deposit boxes masquerading as eye-wateringly expensive apartments. Hardly anyone actually lives there. Let's tear it down and build social housing.

One Hyde Park by David Bank from the Londonist Flickr pool. The buildings aren't even that nice.

The Heygate Estate

We could have picked many of the developments happening to council estates all over London, but the Heygate in Elephant and Castle is one of the most notorious. Of the 1,200 social homes that once stood in this area, 630 will be built across the entire redevelopment. That's out of a total of 3,000 new homes that Lend Lease is developing. The cheapest flat in the West Grove building on the newly redubbed Elephant Park will set you back £542,000.

City Hall

Angry about the lack of genuinely affordable housing at Mount Pleasant, Convoys Wharf or that planned for Bishopsgate Goodsyard? All those planning decisions were taken in Boris Johnson's office at City Hall, and he's come under attack for rolling over for developers. He argues that he'd rather have some homes built than none at all. Is he encouraging the social cleansing of the city? Your decision — but please make your points politely.

Department for Communities and Local Government

This government department covers housing. If you want to impress upon the powers-that-be how you feel about cutting money allocated for 'affordable' housebuilding — from over £8bn in 2008-2011, to £4.5bn for 2011-2015, to £3.3bn for 2015-2018 — or the cut in social rents which will mean housing associations build fewer low-cost homes, or the bizarre policy to bring housing associations into Right to Buy, the DCLG is based at 2 Marsham Street, SW1P 4DF. Alternatively, you can find the Treasury at 1 Horse Guards Road, SW1A 2HQ.

Capco / Network Rail

If you want to protect small, independent traders who have been serving their communities for years, you might want to cast a glance at Capco. Over at Earls Court, the development company has been buying up the freehold of shops and whacking up the rents. If the business doesn't want to pay, Capco is offering a lump sum for them to leave — but some owners have told Dave Hill the amounts are nowhere near enough.

There's a similar story going on in Brixton. Network Rail is refurbishing the arches along Atlantic Road and Brixton Station Road and existing businesses will have to vacate by early next year. Traders say that on return, their rents could increase by as much as 300% and, clearly, not all of them will be able to afford that — if, indeed, they've been able to keep their businesses going while off site. Network Rail says it wants a "good mix of businesses" in the arches after they've been done up; expect chains to muscle in alongside old shops and new start-ups.

Literally anywhere else

Getting pissed off by the Cereal Killer Cafe — or any of the shops around Brick Lane — is getting pissed off about a symptom of gentrification/social cleansing, not the cause. And, frankly, it's even getting pissed off about the wrong symptom. These are just some dudes who set up a business in a part of London that got colonised by hipsters over a decade ago. It's like getting annoyed by Nathan Barley. Go protest at Sweets Way, or Earls Court, or anywhere that real people are in danger of being swept out of right now. And if it's just hipsters that get your goat, try not to take along sound systems and "cheeky banner drops" or other accoutrements of middle class warehouse parties that make you look not that far away from the cereal topping sellers you're bitching about.

Last Updated 12 February 2016

JohnnyFox

The reason most 'cool' or 'zeitgeisty' businesses, restaurants, arts projects and social projects are in Brooklyn in New York is that the island of Manhattan is (despite some residual rent controls) developer, finance and international playperson central and completely unaffordable: Greenwich Village (our Soho) and the Lower East Side (our Shoreditch) have long been colonised and gentrified. Time to discover - and colonise - Croydon, hip people. Hip doesn't have to be Zone 1. Or are you so shallow you believe it does?

James Guppy

I hate the increasing amount of private security patrolled areas too - I got told off in Victoria at the weekend for taking photographs on a private development. So, there is public access but the mysterious owners don't want photographers patrolling. The security guard was very nice and I'd finished taking my pics - bit crap though. I'm sure it's foreign-owned...and as a British citizen, I should have the right to take pics there (alright, it's not injustice of the month but typical of a trend).

hostile_17

"Soon this city will be an unrecognisable, bland, yuppie infested wasteland with no room for normal (and not so normal) people like us." Quite frankly I don't want you in my city. Thugs.

An indy business is what we need in the face of endless parades of pound shops and betting shops. Take William Hill for example - like a cancer infesting our streets... where they make a lot of money yet are now making people work alone as a betting shop worker is killed with a claw hammer. They infest our streets, depriving people of money while their millionaire bosses get rich.

Yet these people target a cereal shop...

I don't want to see William Hill - Poundland - Pret - Pawn Brokers on constant repeat in my city.

information

lendlease are able to only build 79 'social rented' homes on the former heygate. and, like that wasn't enough, southwark council gave them permission to build ZERO council and ZERO 'affordable' homes across the road, at 'one the elephant'.

bstd

See you there when we go smash up one hyde park then.. maybe you could actually do some first hand research on the class/political make-up of this group. Or just stay in the reactionary safe zone - while it lasts.

Monk D'wally De Honk

Just, like, totally mexico. The spirit of Nathan Barley lives on

Nicolas Chinardet

Norton Folgate, anyone?

chamers

The protesters are the wrong people to be mad at!

Lampwick

This article is spot on. Well done.

We live in a democracy. Everyone has the right to protest but no one has the right to intimidate others or damage property.

You only need to look at the mission statement of the protesters to see what a load of hypocritical bigots they are. The singling out of certain nationalities to convey a negative inference is thinly veiled racism. I too cannot afford to live in the parts of London I would like but what has anyone's nationality got to do with it?

bobo moreno

What left wing nonsense. I'm all in favour of some social cleansing; way too many poor people about, they really tone down neighbourhoods.

Kay

"Let's tear it down and build social housing."

Seriously? That's how we do things now, destroy stuff that others happen to afford because we can't? And Kensington has its fair share of social housing anyways. The development is every bit as honest and legit as Cereal Killer.

What we need is governmental policy to repurpose large swathes of brownfield sites across the capital through private public partnership (PPP). There is already some of that but we just need way more and on a massively ambitious scale. Also we should focus on design and avoid the mistakes of post WWII London. A pretty and well designed London is better for all of us.

Kay

Did you know that on the 'Fuck Parade' crowdsourcing page they offered you a chance to DJ for an hour if you paid £100? But £4 for a bowl of carbs and sugar - blasphemy.

TCOSLondon

You want gentrification? Try the Garden Bridge Trust who want to put a private bridge over the Thames using £60m of public funds. Seriously - trying to buy a part of the river using £30m TfL funds that could be used for improving transport, lowering fares, adding air con to tubes/buses. The £30m donation by George Osborne from the Treasury could've been used for so many other projects e.g. housing, roads, hospitals yet the Garden Bridge Trust's solution to using our money is to provide a private party platform for the rich few who want it.

John Moss

Property sold under Right to Buy is occupied. Nobody else can live there and the tenants probably wouldn't buy without the discount or move out independently. The funds from the sales are being used (too slowly I admit) by Councils to build new, unoccuppied homes available for those on waiting lists and in Temporary Accommodation. In London, sufficient cash was reatined by Councils to replace 2-4-1 every home sold.

Richard

Awesomeness found on the internet:

"Anyone fancy joining me on a protest in my area, where once privately owned properties by employed people are now beginning to be rented out to social housing, thus bringing litter and anti social behaviour, resulting in the other employed people now all moving out to continue the cycle towards the area becoming a slum?

It's going to be an Anti-Anti-Gentrification protest.

There will be tea and cakes."

Sue Stolze-Beland

I was born in an East End of London home which housed 3 families (our 6, uncle and aunt and grandparents), had no bathroom and an almost outside loo. We were poor but we were proud and the community spirit in Mile End back in the 50's was alive and well for all genders, nationalities and religions.

The house was subsequently swallowed into a project for the Queen Mary College of London but there are a few similar to my birth home still standing which are now on the market being sold for around GBP. 850,000!! I was gob-smacked when I discovered how much gentrification had effected the area of my birth when I consider myself to be a true Cockney!

I've been back to visit the UK and especially London during the 36 years I've lived in the Netherlands and seen a rapid change.
Yes I am so so happy that many of the slum-housing and dark and dingy areas have been knocked down and re-developed even if the current building blocks vaguely resemble barracks - people have got to live somewhere and the outside aren't always necessarily pretty to look at.

And I have no problem with entrepreneurs and the diversity of small businesses.
What I do object to are those businesses which ONLY cater and pander to those who don't have to turn each penny over who either live or work in the same area whilst far too many others in that area are automatically excluded from making even a small purchase due to their small budgets or emptier purses.
And of course these yuppie and hip businesses will create resentment from someone the same way we all resented the yuppies who moved into the developed docklands of London. Nobody tends to think twice about them nowadays and the cereal shop and 'hip' businesses like it will be forgotten too in the eons of time too.
For those of us who were born into poorer families but through diligence, hard work and a HUGE amount of luck at sometimes being the the right place at the right time, we still have our memories of where we were born and raised.
Of course there is nothing and no one to insist that any and all should physically step into these 'hip' shops/bars/restaurants. We are all capable of making our own choices.
And I seriously wonder if the cereal store will be open for business in 15 years time of if it's just a 5 minute wonder to make lots of dosh as quickly as possible!

I for one enjoy making my own breakfast and any other meal during the course of the day.
And I doubt the new-fangled wine bars of the 70's I popped into after I finished work on a Friday are still open for business.

Aliceanne

Capco / Network Rail - Are they why Embankment station now has a Monsoon and an Oliver Bonas rather than a newsagent and food shop? Bottle of water, chewing gun? No. Overpriced candles or necklace - of course!

Marc Dickson

I despair that anyone can even conceive and finance a business plan whose
foundation is flogging bowls of breakfast cereal.

I weep that there are enough mugs and fools in London to patronise such a
venture and make it a financial success.

But I draw the line at throwing a brick through the window.

Hala

london is open to anyones and everyones money no questions asked and there is so much sloshing around it s obscene. london councils are rapaciously greedy and will rip money from wherever, whoever they can. Human greed is very ugly.