The Southbank Undercroft is one of the few remaining authentic spaces left in Central London. Whilst the rest of the South Bank of the Thames evolved into a combination of over-priced restaurants and boring middle class arts venues, the Southbank Undercroft became colonised by skate boarders, BMX riders and graffiti writers.
The austere concrete landscape became known as the birth place of skate boarding in the UK and has remained a non-commercial and much loved free space that now attracts people from all over the world and is even popular with tourists. In a city that is increasingly merely a playground for the rich and super-rich, it is one rare example of people managing to hold onto a small space and making it available to everyone. No-one is charged to use the Southbank Undercroft, no-one makes money from the space, and graffiti, not advertising covers the concrete walls.
And so, predictably, the South Bank Centre, a middle class arts venue, wishes to close the space down and turn it into shops and restaurants. This is part of a pattern which has taken place across London and began a long time ago on the South Bank. From Brixton to Borough to Hackney, previously working class areas have faced relentless gentrification as property prices soar and local people are forced out. The Southbank Undercroft is the last remaining space on the central London part of the river that these bastards haven’t taken from us, and now they want that as well.
The Tarquins and Jemimas who move in, often attracted by the ‘edginess’ of the local area, soon take over and attempt to mould the environment to their own needs. Well loved local boozers become gastropubs where the previous locals can no longer afford to drink. Greasy spoons and chip shops turn into latte-slurping hellholes, full of chinless hipsters braying into their smart phones about property prices.
A thin line of gentrification now runs along the length of the South Bank from Greenwich to Waterloo. Behind the newly-built luxury flats over-looking the Thames lie working class areas like Deptford and Bermondsey, cut off from the river by the expensive new developments. Probably not more than a few hundred yuppy twats have seized the best piece of South London for themselves whilst behind them the locals are socially cleansed from the city with benefit cuts and rent hikes.
Nowhere is this more apparent than at Waterloo where the rich sip cocktails on the river before catching the latest play or performance at the South Bank Centre. Of course they pretend that they want everyone to enjoy their new found territory and so self-indulgent arts projects – which they run – serve to assuage their nagging guilt at stealing London from the poor. After all, the locals, with their funny ways of speaking, dangerous ethnicities and strange customs are quite entertaining, as long as you don’t get too close.
And for the arty do gooders at the South Bank Centre, the skaters in the Undercroft are too close for comfort and are now to be sacrificed in the name of making more money for the liberal arts scene.
One of the people mobilising the toxic alliance of corporate greed and art school wankers against the Undercroft skate-boarders is former socialist Billy Bragg. For those reading under the age of 35, Bragg used to be a pop star who enjoyed mild success in the 80s and then retired to a mansion to spend more time with his money. These days his public appearances are confined to acting as a token fake leftie on BBC politics programmes, or spewing out pieces toadying up to the the Queen for the Daily Mail.
Today he’s appeared on The Guardian website to complain about the pesky kids who refuse to do what he tells them to and abandon their campaign to save the Southbank Undercroft. And predictably for an ego-ridden former pop star, it’s all me, me, me. Where will the performers for my annual busking charity wankfest rehearse complains Bragg? What about the poor homeless people we make do the gardening for no pay he whinges, or the entrepreneurs, won’t someone please think of the entrepreneurs.
It’s not Starbucks moving into the space claims Bragg, but pop-up shops, the latest trust fund monstrosities that litter the capital flogging over-priced yuppy tat to the gullible. Well pop up shops, and just a couple of restaurants, but come on kids, where are the middle classes supposed to eat?
Bragg lives in a Dorset mansion, yet still has the gall to claim that the Skateboarders have “set out to put themselves above everyone else in the South Bank community”. Perhaps most contemptible of all, he uses the threat of austerity – and what does this millionaire know about austerity – in an attempt to make the skate boarders feel guilty for fighting for the space that no-one even fucking wanted until someone worked out how some money could be made from it.
The skate boarders can’t just ring up a mate in The Guardian and proceed to trash Billy Bragg in the national press the way he is doing to them. Instead they have had to resort to the real work of petitions, weekly stalls and online organising to save the space they developed and deserve. They should have everyone’s support who wants to live in a city that belongs to all it’s residents, not just chinless tossers like Boris Johnson, or liberal fucking do-gooders like Billy Bragg.
For more ways to help visit the website at: http://www.llsb.com/takeaction/
Please help spread the word about the campaign to save the Southbank Undercroft, even if for no other reason than pissing off Billy Bragg.
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