Rob Schellert is a writer, artists and activist who has been living in Hackney for many years, and has seen the process of gentrification, first hand, from beginning to end.
Rob kindly agreed to visit our group in Stoke in August to give us the benefit of his experience, and to give us some things to look out for.
In order to share his findings with the wider group, I decided to design some stickers, in the ‘Neighbourhood watch’ style. They illustrate some of the things he told us. The first is the three waves of gentrification.
This charts the way class displacement progresses. He says that Hackney is entering stage 3 now, as all of his middle class friends are being forced out to other areas. Which brings us onto the section sticker- Geographic Displacement
This sticker illustrates the path of migration caused by gentrification in London and latterly outside- branching into areas like Bristol and Birmingham. The question for cities like Stoke-on-Trent is where next?
The next sticker illustrates a phase from Rob. I think this could be quite divisive, not only setting the middle classes against the working classes, but forcing people to identify with one or the other camp- not by virtue of their wealth or upbringing- but by their actions.
The forth and final sticker illustrates what Rob says sparks gentrification. That is not to say that this is something that happens over time either- as these 4 things improved simultaneously in Hackney with the announcement and delivery of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Gentrification in Stoke remains a controversial topic, with some people saying it could never happen here and others saying it has already started, and is impossible to prevent.
I am happy to say that I will be able to continue this research into a new residency at the ACAVA Spode Works Studios over the coming months. A residency which is designed to continue with different artists year on year- so eventually in an artistic document we will be proven right or wrong!by