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You know things are bad when an estate agent earnestly makes the case for government action to stop locals being pushed out of their community. This quietly enraging documentary by lifelong Hackney, London, resident Zed Nelson tackles gentrification by looking at Hoxton Street – for years a bastion of East End cockneyism with its pie and mash shop, fruit’n’veg market and more pubs than can possibly be healthy on one street. Nelson filmed for four years, capturing the end of a way of life as the craft beer shops and art galleries move in, followed by property developers catching the whiff of profit.
The launderette is gone, the carpet shop on its way out. Bemused locals mutter about “yuppies”. The baker’s closes after 150 years. A media company arrives, installing a bath full of rubber balls for staff to sit in and get their creative juices flowing.
Colleen, 82, has lived in the area all her life. Errol the mechanic, who’s been here for donkey’s, says he gets three or four property developers a month trying to buy his garage. The film tells an inconvenient truth about gentrification – that, while newcomers get a kick moving into an “edgy” area, often there’s not much in it for the locals. “I felt like an outcast,” says a teenage girl about a visit to a fancy coffee shop. It’s them and us.
The housing crisis is at the root of many problems in Hoxton Street. Colin lives in a £235-a-week studio the size of prison cell in an ex-council house, now split into three tiny flats, all rented back to the council. The local church runs a soup kitchen to feed desperate people struggling with benefits cuts. Nelson doesn’t soft soap local attitudes about who’s to blame; many focus their anger on “foreigners who can’t talk our English”; the Brexit debate rages.
Meanwhile, luxury tower blocks go up, with cinemas, concierges, gyms and zero social housing provision. Nelson is shown around a £1m apartment; it’s a little on the snug side, the estate agent explains, so they’ve put the kitchen in the hallway. An unmissable portrait of modern London.
• The Street is released in the UK on 29 November.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The Street review – quietly enraging portrait of Hoxton lives on the brink | Documentary films