Marxist Hipsters, Poundland, Job Centre

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“Carl Neville’s recent novel Resolution Way takes place in a slightly near-future London, recognisable as the capital as it is today but subtly worse. Set in the historic, working-class, rapidly gentrifying riverside districts of south-east London – Deptford, Greenwich, Woolwich – and in the Kent seaside towns that its residents are moved to by hook or crook – Margate, Broadstairs, Folkestone – it barely perceptibly mixes things that have and haven’t happened.

“Prefabricated, developer-built ‘pens’ house key workers such as cleaners, nurses and teachers in single-aspect microflats, as a ‘social enterprise’. A new Tube line, ‘SoftRail’, is invite-only, conveying financial services employees from their riverside housing complexes to their jobs in the City and Canary Wharf, safe from the inhabitants of a restive, riot-torn inner city. A widely used social media app allows you to explore all the contacts of complete strangers. Nightclubs purvey ‘twinning’ evenings – the ’90s as the ’60s, the 2000s as the ’70s – and retro cool hunters compete over the private mix tapes once made by now middle-aged ravers. A private security firm, a nightmarish combination of Capita and Blackwater, forcibly ‘decants’ the inhabitants of council tower blocks from their homes. Workfare programmes involve compulsory relocation from London to the coastal towns.

“Other than that, the novel’s protagonists worry as they do today – how to make ends meet, how to defend their neighbours against the police, how to pitch their next novel to their agent.

“But what makes this book so much fun for anyone – like myself – who has lived in the areas described for most of the last two decades, is spotting the things that are real and are put into the novel unchanged. The title refers to Resolution Way, a street along a railway viaduct in Deptford, which really boasts a gallery called Enclave, where Marxist hipsters wordily plot resistance to gentrification. Genuinely around the corner is a block of luxury flats with a Poundland as its piece of ground-floor active frontage. Off the High Street, a railway carriage with a café inside really did make the area safe for another expensive apartment block, designed in reality by Rogers Stirk Harbour. The old Job Centre really has become a bar called Job Centre. Science fiction as it may partly be, what would strike anyone reading Resolution Way is a certain shock and surprise that someone has managed to register the experience of, and the typologies created by, inner London in the 21st century. This is something which has usually been addressed in terms of problems which London hasn’t actually faced for some time – spatial segregation, ‘no go areas’, ‘sink estates’, ‘social exclusion’ and a dearth of ‘aspiration’, all of which may be problems elsewhere, but are less relevant for Londoners, who face a bizarre and unnerving lack of spatial stratification, where it increasingly seems as if entirely different lives and economies coexist on the same street, in the same estates, in the same block of flats.”

Text: Owen Hatherley, ‘In 20 years Inner London may really be like Paris, a wealthy centre surrounded by racialised poverty’, The Architectural Review

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