Before the streets come to life, the colourful graffiti on the shop shutters on Atlantic Road illuminate the London greyness in the early morning. Brixton has always been a meeting place for cultures, where diversity blooms. But, last year the landlord Network Rail advised its tenants that they would have to vacate their units under the railway by the end of 2016. Grocery shops, fishmongers, cafés and other small retailer risk losing their lace under the arches that are part of Brixton’s soul.
#SAVEBRIXTONARCHES had spread rapidly online when a Croydon-based street-artist known as PINS took his cans out in support of the South London district. He painted the shop shutters to give visibility to the campaign and, using art, he highlighted the uniqueness of these stores. Numerous artists wanted to get involved and joined him. “We are just using the power of street art to get the message out there,” PINS said.
More than 20 businesses who have been settled there for over 25 years risk eviction to make place for more lucrative contracts with high street chains. In fact, there are rumours that rents will triple after the railway development. A Network Rail spokesman stated, “We are not looking to turn the arches into clone-town, and we are aware of our responsibilities, not just to our tenants but also to the rest of Brixton to get this right.” Brixton’s independent spirit is in danger.
These fears are probably well-founded, rents will likely soar, tenants will be evicted, and Brixton’s character is at risk. While the first retailers start closing, the community continues to fight for its iconic shops between Atlantic Road, Brixton Station Road, and Pope’s Road survival because its heart is there. “One Brixton, Our Brixton.”