If there is one thing trendy white urban middle classes (affectionately known as WUMC’s) in London like, it’s a good fight on their own turf when they feel threatened by big corporations or local government. Inspired in part by snobbery, it’s tribalism with a hint of smugness, and self-entitlement thrown in with a pinch of hypocrisy, sort of like what’s galvanising them currently in Stoke Newington. Although I must warn you, the Stoke Newington posse is a whole ‘nother animal and after quite a long spell of nothing big to fight for, this is like manna from heaven to them. Remember the idiotic fight against having a Nandos on Church Street?
But I mustn’t be to too heavy on the Stokey chattering and upwardly mobile set, it seems others also want to make hay out of this. The Hackney Lib Dems have weighed in and have started up an on line petition and who can blame them…it could be a vote catcher. Surprisingly even Hackney Unites has weighed in, and sundry collection of activists and usual suspect are positioning themselves. Aided by Facebook and Twitter, they can also count on the ‘jump on the band wagon brigade’ to sign up.
Since word about a new 24,00 square feet Sainsburys store on the high street and Wilmer Place (off Church Road) began to spread in early June, the usual suspects have been very vocal and in a short time organized themselves into several Facebook groups and even a website to say no to the development. It includes 44 residential units (including a proportion of affordable homes), subterranean parking space for up to 94 vehicles, that will be available to Stoke Newington town centre and Sainsbury’s shoppers alike.
Despite Sainsbury’s development creating 200 new jobs, they don’t want it to go ahead and for once I am partly in agreement with the WUMC’s and NIMBY’s of Stoke Newington. I say partly because while I find the the idea of another Sainsburys within a mile of 4 other large supermarkets and several mini Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s abhorrent, they have to realise they do not speak for all of Stoke Newington.
We certainly can do without another Sainsbury’s, but in a borough as deprived as Hackney, can we do without the 200 plus job opportunities it or another similar project will provide? A new Sainsbury’s replaced what was a Sommerfield’s a mile away in Stamford Hill earlier this year and an Asda has took over Netto on Stamford Hill Broadway a few weeks ago. Coincidentally the site of the new Asda was a Sainsbury’s back in the 1980’s.
If you ask me, the objections have everything to do with the value of the homes and the cultural, social, and economic hegemony that Stoke Newington’s middle-class have created – they will wage battle on anyone or group, they feel threatens their insular urban “village” life and their over exaggerated romanticism of Stoke Newington.
Another reminder, the part of Stoke Newington they like to refer to as a village, is not a village. It’s part of a very diverse borough called Hackney where many have no use for many of the businesses on Church Street. Ironically ‘diverse’ is a word they conveniently throw around when waging war on developers or businesses they don’t want on their turf.
Stokey purists may not like the description or the generalization, but you have to admit the “Stokey set” are caricatures of themselves:
“The time has come to strike a balance, and stop the erosion of local identities”, waxes writer Mike Pollitt, a Tower Hamlet resident and friend of Stokey, in a piece he recently wrote. ” Stokey is a place of prams and health shops, organic smoothies and tofu sandwiches. That is its nature, and like any community identity it’s worth fighting to protect. It’s time to take a stand.” Pollitt pretty much echos the protesters mantra.
But I feel It’s time the Stokey purist’s wake up and realise that Stoke Newington is for EVERYBODY, not just a segment who want an exclusive enclave of over-priced stores and those who oppose chain stores or big corporations. Sure, protecting small local independent businesses is paramount in any community, but I feel a few big names is a nice balance and will introduce much needed foot traffic to Church Street businesses. Claiming big corporations only inflate commercial rent in Stoke Newington is a poor excuse. Church Street’s uppity businesses have already taken care of that.
On a recent foray, I stopped off at two of my favorite shops on the High Street, Parkers Pet Shop (who by the way DO NOT sell animals) and The Cookery a butchers where I shop weekly, for my meats. Staff at both shops agreed there wasn’t a need for another Sainsbury’s on the High Street although, they were not certain how much it would affect their business. My view? Judging by the long lines I’ve seen outside The Cookery there isn’t a chance Sainsbury’s will be taking away any of their business, after all its customers already have a choice of other outlets including the Sainsbury’s in Dalston and Morrison’s less than a mile away, yet we choose our local high street butcher and always will.As for Parker’s, they provide a selection of pet supplies that I yet have to see in any supermarket in the UK.
When I cook my native Nigerian and West Indian dishes it’s Ridley market and local shops I go to buy my plantains, sweet potatoes, stock fish, pounded yam, egusi seeds, palm oil and dried craw fish not a supermarket chain. The selection of fruits sold on our high streets, especially those grown in the tropics, is incomparable. Again, super markets just can’t compete with their selection and the only real competition they have are each other.