The smashing of the windows on Brick Lanes quirky ‘Cereal Killer Cafe’ hit the news this week. It’s perpetrators, a supposed bunch of ‘anti-gentrification’ campaigners, targeted the new business upstart as a symbol of all they despised.
Since opening earlier this year, the Cereal Killer Cafe, which as the name implies literally sells just cereal, has been a resounding success but one which has not been without controversy. When it opened, a zealous Channel 4 news reporter famously scoffed at the price of a bowl. How could this new business justify charging £3.20 for a bowl of cereal in one of London’s poorest boroughs he cried with fake indignation.
I remembered seeing this at the time and thinking what a ridiculous thing that was to say. Anyone who has ever been to Brick Lane knows that only down the road you’ll pay that much for a slice of cake. Or, maybe you’ll pay about £2.50 for the World’s tiniest coffee served in the equivalent of a shot glass. No, make no mistake, the price of cereal charged by this quirky cafe is no more outrageous than any of that.
The thing that frustrates me with ‘anti-gentrification’ campaigners is their seeming lack of understanding about what they are campaigning about. Would they for example like Brick Lane to go back to what it was in the 60’s? A bombed out hulk with a reputation for being able to buy stolen goods.
Maybe people would hark back to the days when the famous Brick Lane market hosted a menagerie of exotic animals and birds, all kept in squalid conditions and which were treated so brutally that it simply would not be tolerated now. Or, perhaps people might be yearning for the Krays, especially given the buzz created by the recent movie release, and the gang wars that blighted the area.
No, make no mistake Brick Lane is a better place now, and that is partly because of what some people call ‘gentrification’. What people should really be concerned about is how the City of London is encroaching. They should be concerned about the high rises which are being built everywhere you look. They should be concerned about the fact that there is hardly any affordable housing to be seen as part of any of these developments.
What they should be doing is actively campaigning against developments such as the Bishopsgate Goods Yard and the Norton Folgate proposals which would genuinely damage the soul of the area. They should be writing to the Mayor to ensure that he doesn’t try to push these through. They should be doing something constructive.
But instead they choose to wear masks, carry torches and smash the windows of a small cafe which sells cereal.