The Black community bookshop. cafe and centre, Centreprise, in Dalston, East London was evicted last week.
They had been paying a peppercorn rent of £500 odd a year since 1984, and Hackney Council had demanded this be upped to a market rent of around £37,000. Centreprise claimed that they had bought
the building in 1983, which is disputed by the Council; they offered to pay £12,000 a year, but Hackney rejected this, took them to court and won possession... Centreprise were preparing an appeal, but were evicted overnight last Thursday November 1st.
Centreprise was originally set up around 1970, by a collective that included black and white socialists, anarchists and other community activists. Over the decades it has served as a meeting place for all sorts
of community groups, an outlet for all sorts of radical literature, a centre of working class writing and history, a drop in space for thousands of local folk and a good cheap cafe... In recent decades the bookshop has been orientated more to black politics and writing, and while some of us have had some issues with the place, especially since the collective management was replaced by the hierarchical domination of one person in the '90s, that's as maybe... A community space of great local usefulness and significance has been totally done over...
Hackney has form for this kind of sleight-of-hand dealing with tenants they want rid of: Hackney folk who recall the Broadway market evictions of Tony's Cafe and Spirit's shop a few years back will recognise the style. As with Broadway market, there's more to this story than some unpaid or disputed rent and rates... The big plan for Dalston is gentrification, money money money, and a nice big dollop of social and ethnic cleansing - politely and with flash developments if possible, but with force behind that. The Shoreditch/Hoxton art-cash nexus is spreading north up the Kingsland Road like a posh, hip, tight-jeaned, bearded, floaty dress plague, powered by those white single-speed bikes with orange or purple wheels, and Dalston is due for class (meaning effectively race) re-adjustment.
As Ceasfire commented: "This process of gentrification is quickly usurping the outlets and services which local working class communities have built up over time. Pushing up the prices of rent is one of the most significant ways in which this process is perused. This rent hike is not affecting the bookmakers or pubs, as much as cultural spaces such as Centerprise bookshop and restaurant. The local council is raising the low rents offered to community outlets, in favour of the commercial establishments which gentrification has brought to the area."
There was no way Centreprise could pay such a huge rent hike, or if they could, they would have had to change utterly. "More art galleries and jazz bars - less black politics, or politics of any sort, or variety of any
sort..." Nice new slogan for Hackney Council?
Several groups and businesses who use Centreprise are getting together to challenge the eviction in the courts, and as far as I know the main avenue for protest asked for right now is sending
angry letters to Hackney Mayor Jules 'Shit' Pipe...
for past tense
contact Centreprise: firstname.lastname@example.org
some links about Centreprise history and the eviction: