Residing in Brighton, I am fully aware of the damage of which gentrification can indirectly attack communities, art and general welfare. Not only have I had this shoved down my throat by every taxi driver or barber I have come into contact with in my time in the sea side city, but also by musicians and artists who are struggling to pay rent each month, let alone afford the vast equipment and travel that following your passion sadly ensues.
I will use Brighton as the prime example, long known as a ‘hippy paradise’, and a bustling community of young creatives, the city has recently been hit with a plague of big city folk. They treat the place as a weekend getaway, leaving many flats and houses empty for long periods of time, thus butchering a sense of community and familiarity with those around.
On top of this, prices of housing have soared to an all time high in the East Sussex area, predominantly due to the ‘sheep’ affect, every man and his dog are looking for housing in Brighton to escape the hustle and bustle of London. Ultimately, this has resulted in prices of residency skyrocketing. It isn’t rocket science that the vast majority of creatives will earn very little profit from their natural desire, so just how long will these prices keep ascending before Brighton is merely a clone of many parts of London.
I was speaking to a particularly spiteful barber in Hove who was infuriated by this, even to the point of pointing out the window whilst cutting my hair at a smartly dressed mid 30’s, stating they were vultures. Yes, this may sound harsh and vindictive but the barber went on to explain how he had lived in Brighton comfortably and peacefully his whole life with a large community of friends and acquaintances from the art scene, he now claims he has as many friends in the city as fingers on one hand. Perhaps that is due to his ignorance of others, or perhaps this is due to the fact that Brighton is more than just a place to live, it is quite genuinely a home, a home unlike anywhere else in the country where you are free to be whoever you want and not be judged and currently these free spirits simply can’t afford to live off of working in a smoothie bar and playing open mic nights.
I can speak from first hand experience that being in a band and affording the costs that go with it in Brighton is a day to day struggle, I have before had to sacrifice meals in order to pay a taxi fare to a gig with our equipment. You may think, well that is a fair sacrifice, I beg to differ, at the moment my bedroom is so small I choose to spend my time top to toeing at a friends house. This room even ten years back would have been extremely affordable to just about anyone. Unless something drastic happens to curve the exponential ascent of rent and house prices in the area, before long, I truly believe the bohemian paradise of Brighton will be a distant memory, it is to some (the barber) already.
Words: Will Tavener