Though we toured Wilton’s Music Hall last night, I find that the underlying themes of the tour are more compatible with today’s tour of the London’s East End. Throughout the tour, our guide, Anne-Marie, made several comments about the disheartening amount of gentrification taking place throughout the East End. The amount of history in the small area that we toured was overwhelming, and Anne-Marie and I had the same concerns, one which she made a point to voice consistently. Both tours’ guides had similar points. With Wilton’s, the idea was to conserve, rather than restore, meaning that keeping whatever changes occurred to Wilton’s as a way to prolong its history. Similarly, with the East End, there were some instances where the original Victorian fronts were left, but buildings had been rebuilt behind it or elsewhere, and the idea was more about preservation of the original history. While slightly different, both ideas relate to the retention of each building and landmarks’ history. Unfortunately, that history is in jeopardy, particularly in the East End.
Though I have no personal ties to the city of London, I was very affected by the gentrification because of Anne-Marie’s reaction to it (as a Londoner) and also the parallels I was able to draw between it and a lot of the gentrification taking place in various points of Atlanta. Much like East End, residents from lower income areas (much like the Jago) were displaced while the area was built up, but they weren’t allowed to return to their homes. The same happens in Atlanta, however, rather than there being Victorian behavioral and etiquette rules, residents of Atlanta are being priced out of their neighborhoods; the rent pricing is being elevated so much that original residents cannot afford their homes.
Bearing in mind the East End, I have mixed feelings. While I’m glad that beautiful, historical regions of London such as the East End are gaining momentum and foot traffic not seen for quite some time, it comes at a grave cost. I don’t take issue with the new businesses coming to East End. In fact, I think it’s a wonderful idea to bring more people out to see all of the stunning history of the area. However, I am incredibly uncomfortable with the renovation work being done when these new businesses arrive. Rather than maintaining as much of the original architecture as possible, the new businesses are completely demolishing and rebuilding the areas to suit their fancies, taking away from the rich history of the East End.