Challenging the hegemonic views.
The most popular hegemonic view (Gramsci) of East London has arguably been that East London is poor and deprived. A lot of media representations of East London historically, has framed the area as destitute and underprivileged and a majority of people see this as common sense. I remember for example, when I told my mum that I had been accepted into the University of East London her immediate response was: “you don’t want to go there, its filthy and there’s a lot of crime”.
This idea of cultural hegemony previously constructed by the higher class may have been to encourage more tourism in the western and central areas of London, which are more connotated with wealth and consumerism. Whatever the reasoning, with the capitalist culture of canary wharf and plenty of gentrification schemes like Stratford, hegemonic views seem to be changing. In this post I will discuss the three main representations of east London that I have discovered since researching the area.
Having investigated the way in which East London is being represented by contemporary media forms, it is apparent that there are many competing representations.
On one end, you have the dirty, gritty, poverty ridden areas of Eastlondon. This is where you get connotations of teenage ‘hoodrats’ and asbo’s who listen to grime/hip hop/rap music and commit crime and deal/smoke drugs. “Teenage street gangs have been a part of East End culture for generations, but in recent years the old-fashioned punch-up has mutated into lethal violence” (The independent, 1998).
This YouTube video follows Danny Dyer’s interview with Vic Dark, a notorious East London gangster. The interview discusses Vic’s nightclub job that led to his arrest in 1988. This, along with knowledge about the Kray twins is evidence of gang culture that did exist in the East End. However, this ideological view is still present due to the underlying historical discourse of the area. I’m not disputing that there is gang culture and violence in the present day, especially in poorer areas, however stereotyping the whole of East London as a ‘ghetto’ is unfair.
Then you have the hipsters, the so called bearded, skinny jean wearing eco warriors. The lovers of café culture and vintage shops, the new innovators of the area. A prime example would be the cool, stylish owners of the Cereal Killer Café, Gary and Allan. They are most connotated to areas such as Shoreditch/ brick lane and as mentioned in a previous post by Bonney, have moved to this area due to cheaper living prices but still being able to access central London easily. With the influx of young, ‘stylish’ residents in the East End its hard to label it as just the poorer end of London.
The hipsters however, aren’t the only ones circulating more money into the East End. If you take the DLR it is evident that gentrification is happening plentifully around the area. Corporate companies and businesses are beginning to invest in the ‘cool and upcoming area’.
Take London’s ExCel centre for example, “ExCel London, the exhibition and international convention centre, is the host venue for a variety of events from award winning exhibitions and conferences to international association meetings, product launches… etc… Situated in a stunning waterfront location, ExCel London is located in the heart o London’s royal docks, within easy reach of central London” (ExCel exhibition centre website).
The DLR has opened up easy accessibility further into London’s East End, allowing for businesses to buy cheaper land to build on knowing that people can easily visit and Invest into their business/ building projects.
This YouTube video captures East London in a more positive and up beat light looking at the transformation of London in recent years. This view of East London being a beautifully diverse and artistic area is encouraging more and more people to visit, invest and reside in East London. It also challenges the hegemonic view that East London is poor and gang ridden, demonstrating the complexity and layering of postmodern (Harvey) life in the city.
Uploaded by: Sheldon