Spent a few days in London over the past week (which is why this is the first post for a while) and went to Beatroot twice with friends. This small and inexpensive vegetarian/vegan cafe is something of an insitution amongst political activists and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been there after a demo in central London.
Sadly I won’t be going again as come April, it will be closing down – another victim of the gentrification of Soho. The building it’s part of is being turned into a luxury hotel. As well as a row of mainly independent shops, including a music and video exchange that’s been there as long as I can recall, above them there are council flats. What is going to happen to the tenants? Are they being told they will have to move out of the area to make way for the super-rich?
I lived in London for the first 48 years of my life and every time I return I can see how much it’s changing – for the worst! Working class communities are suffering due to the incessant spread of the wealthy elite who’re colonizing the city and imposing sky-high rents to rake in their greedy profits.
Fortunately there has been resistance too. While I was in London there was a week of action called by the Radical Housing Network which included a Block the Budget mass action at City Hall when Boris Jonson’s £1.8 billion budget was voted on. Recently there’s been loads of publicity over the Focus E15 Mums, the victory for the tenants of the New Era Housing Estate in Hackney and a big picket of a conference on selling off council housing which forced it to shut its doors.
This is definitely one area where class politics and animal rights and environmental activism converge. If the ruling class gets its way and London becomes a no-go area for ordinary people, what will happen to campaigns like the one against the fur trade?
The struggle will go on but sadly it appears it’s already too late for Beatroot and other independent shops in Berwick Street, W1, not to mention the fruit and veg market there too. There are still good vegan eateries left in London but you may have to travel a little further in future to the likes of Black Cat cafe in Hackney or Kabaret in Wood Green.