“Gentrification is just the fin above the water,” the San Francisco writer Rebecca Solnit once warned of the changes to her home town. “Below is the rest of the shark.” The shark being a “hollow city” with an economy where “most of us will be poorer, a few will be far richer, and everything will be faster, more homogenous and more controlled or controllable”.
Their neighbourhood was an endangered species: a patch of inner London belonging to the elderly, the working poor, the unemployed. Now it was being broken up to suit an international company selling homes to the well-off. The fact their council was leading this dismemberment made some especially angry.
Even tenants in the new social housing reported how they or neighbours had been plunged into debt because of the higher bills incurred through having a private housing association as a landlord. Despite Berkeley’s promise to “bring together all people in Woodberry Down”, social tenants reported that those living in the expensive private blocks “cross the road to avoid us”. They had been made to feel like second-class citizens in their own home.
What follows are stories of the people best placed to tell you about what regeneration does to a community: the ones who come from it. Some have lived on Woodberry Down for more than six decades; others are in their 20s. Their photos don’t feature in the civic-centre case studies or corporate press releases. They haven’t got local elections to win, or a profit target to chase. They’ve just got to live with the results.