Gentrification is as much part of London as its bustling art scene, but the two can’t cohabit peacefully. Record-low wages and jacked up rent prices are driving out the lower-income musicians, artists, fashion workers and other creatives that make London what it is.
Cultural spaces and institutions being closed down at an alarming rate, it’s not surprising that the city is taking steps to combat the negative effects of gentrification.
Mayor Sadiq Khan is making good on his campaign promise to keep the city affordable for artists, and together with his team is looking to introduce “Creative Enterprise Zones” – dedicated small studios with live-in space – to protect London’s creative set.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, newly appointed Deputy Mayor for Culture Justine Simons said the “ultimate solution” was to ensure artists have their own studios and that City Hall is currently working on purchasing unused spaces in creative hubs like east and south-east London, as well as finding new ones.
Hackney Wick has the highest concentration of artists in all of Europe, but Simons says the city is projected to lose a third of its artist studios to development over the next five years. She says:
“By the time people have put grants together and applied for sponsorship the property is off the market, so it’s the kind of intervention that is about accessing finance to allow creative people to put down roots and buy infrastructure and create ownership.
At the moment artists and creative people are like the advance party — they find the stranger, weird places that no one sees much value in, they bring them to life, the area becomes valuable and then they are priced out of the market.
What we want to create is an area where creative people can put down roots and that would be a creative enterprise zone.”