By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
Champagne and Fromage sparks class warfare in Brixton, but good food isn’t an ‘invasion’; Foxtons is a more disconcerting development.
In the parlance of Welsh rockers Goldie Lookin Chain; cheese don’t kill classes, houses do.
Protests have been set up this weekend in the London borough of Brixton where a new wine bar called Champagne and Fromage is due to open in their prized market space used predominantly for independent stalls and street food.
Some 380 people have signed up to a party to protest against its opening, organised by a group called Yuppies Out, which claim to stand against gentrification in South London. They will be providing White Ace cider and Dairylee cheese slices as a metaphorical middle finger to the gastro invasion, but as more youthful Londeners embrace indulgence as a part of ‘city life’, one must ask what’s really the driving force behind the gentrification of London suburbia.
Social change in Brixton
Brixton has a fraught but proud history. The Windrush generation – so-called after the wave of British African-Caribbean community which arrived in 1948 on the Empire Windrush from Jamaica – instigated a period of social change which sculpted the Lambeth district into the place it is today, where festivals celebrate its Caribbean origins and the best jerk chicken outside Notting Hill Carnival can be found.
After the racially motivated Electric Avenue bombing in 1999 there has been a big effort to clean the streets of Brixton, which led to a gradual wave of middle class and young people returning to the area in what is now one of the most racially diverse, but socially harmonious areas of London.
Today Brixton is littered with galleries, delicatessens, bars, cafes and vintage clothing stores, which some believe is gentrifying the area in a similar way to that in nearby Clapham. But the traditional measure of socio-economic class used by the Office for National Statistics – the NS-Sec figure – has been largely disregarded in the Brixton protests. The opening of Foxtons Estate Agents, a mere stone’s throw away, is a much more significant development.
Making Brixton posh
“As you may or may not know a dark cloud is ominously looming above the once pure skys of Brixton, this cloud is called CHAMPAGNE AND FROMAGE and from the 15th of October it will rain on us until we drown in a sea of estate agents, champagne swilling yummy mummies and the so called ‘fizz fiends.’” – Yuppies Out
In an age of Bubbledog (hot dogs and champagne), Burger & Lobster and gastropubs, the opening of Champagne and Fromage in Brixton seems perfectly in keeping with the general appetite of London’s burgeoning young professional population for all things gastronomic.
Champagne and Bubbles owner Stefano Frigerio insisted earlier this year that the controversial new venture ”will not be posh”, and I for one agree with him. Munch on Dairylee and cheap cider all you like, but the fact of the matter is that the Young Ones moved out of London a long time ago, and the youth of today have lost their appetite for chick peas and tinned food; something that’s reflected from supermarket shelves to pub grub menus.
Brixton, which has seen house prices and rental values soar, is subject to the same influx of wealth as any other part of London suburbia; something that’s reflected far more blatantly in the presence of middle to upper class real estate agents.
Champaign and Fromage, for all its traditional connotations, is the innocent party in all this. Hanging onto remnants of the past is futile, and publically sipping White Ace cider is a similarly redundant effort if you simply return home to secretly scoff camembert and sip Chablis.