By Rhiannon Humphreys
The Bristol arts scene is currently quaking at the plans to partially demolish Hamilton House, a cultural centre in Stokes Croft which Banksy calls his spiritual home, to make way for 50 private flats. This development is happening with little to no care for the impact that it will have on the local community.
According to the operator of the building, Coexist, the centre provided a space for 500 artists, social enterprises and businesses and over 1,260 employment opportunities in 2017 alone. These include support groups for those with learning disabilities, drug addicts and degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s. Bristol boasts property prices that have risen more than any other city in the UK over the past 5 years and because of this, gentrification is creeping into poor areas, such as Stokes Croft, forever changing them in the name of re-development.
But we should be concerned about gentrification closer to home, too. Our beloved City Road, part of the cultural centre of Cardiff’s large BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community, is also under threat. It is a thriving street, full of food shops and restaurants offering a fantastic variety of cuisines from around the world and fashion stores that cater to the different needs of the diverse ethic communities living in the area.
Importantly, most of these stores are BAME owned. But developers are slowly closing in. Over the past few years, there have been several mysterious fires in properties on the street which suggests possible underhand involvement of developers. Property prices and rent are rising in the area, which is pushing current residents out, much like in Bristol. In 2016, the beloved Poet’s Corner pub was demolished to make way for a block of luxury student housing and private flats. The owners are struggling to fill the flats they are unaffordable for local residents and not enough students are interested, but the pub, a popular music venue in the 1980s, is already lost.
A third of Cardiff lives in poverty, with the BAME community being hit particularly hard. The area around City Road is historically BAME, and yet with gentrification these communities are being pushed out of areas that they have inhabited for years. Without affordable spaces, both in Cardiff and in Bristol, where will these thriving, cohesive communities go?