Case study: Dagenham

Dagenham forms part of London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. The area remained mostly undeveloped until 1921 when the London County Council began construction of the large Becontree estate. Significantly, in 1924 planning of the Ford Dagenham plant began. As a result the population of the area significantly increased during the 20th century, with the parish of Dagenham becoming an urban district in 1926 and a municipal borough in 1938. Notoriously known as Dagenham’s ‘heyday’ (Asthana, 2010), Ford Motors was significantly important for the culture and community of the area. The area was thriving in this industrial boom and at its peak in the 1950’s it employed more than 40,000. “Through seven decades, the Dagenham workers produced about 11 million vehicles and turned a corner of east London into a showpiece of British industrial culture” (Asthana, 2010).

But now, it is estimated to only employ a total of 4,000 workers (Zino, 2009) which has had a huge impact on the area culturally and economically. An expert in the transformation of the area Ian Vickers stated “the loss of manufacturing has hit hard and that was followed by the loss of some of  the borough’s focal points. The two working men’s clubs have both gone; the cinema closed; a vast number of pubs have closed or been demolished. Not many years ago the town had a number of long-established businesses and shops; these have also shut up, many replaced by fast food outlets, pawnbrokers and pound stores. The town has altered beyond recognition, both in its populace and its fabric. The borough in the 1991 census was 96% white British, in 2001 this had dropped to 81%. In a 2005 estimate, this was given as 73%, which extrapolated to 2010 is just around 65%. The white British have been replaced with a large influx of chiefly African and some Eastern European migrants. Most people who lived around the actual town centre in 1991 have ‘escaped’, as they see it, further out into Essex, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk, and some even abroad.” (Asthana, 2010) He concluded by stating “there is much hardship here, too.”

Evidently, Dagenham has witnessed major cultural and demographic changes showing that the area is constantly evolving through time. To categorically define Dagenham would be impossible, but through discourse it is evident that the area is diverse in ethnicity and for a period of time it was the “heartland” of the British industrial industry.

Reference List
Asthana, A. (2010). Dagenham’s heyday: ‘It was all just one big happy family then’. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/mar/21/dagenham-barking-ford-industrial-history (Accessed: 24 March 2015).

Zino, K. (2009). Milestones: Ford Dagenham Estate Celebrates 80 Years of Manufacturing. Available at: http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2009/05/milestones-ford-dagenham-estate-celebrates-80-years-of-manufacturing/ (Accessed: 24 March 2015).

Post by: Georgina Miles

Case study: Dagenham

Is East London losing its unique identity through gentrification and commercialisation?

06-east-end-london-670
(National Geographic, 2012)

The image  above seems to perfectly illustrate the contrast in modern versus post-modern architecture in East London. The post-modern buildings that comprise Canary Wharf loom in the background, while what appears to be residential, working-class, terraced housing sits in the foreground. This image seems to add weight to the theory that gentrification significantly alters both the cultural and physical landscapes of urban spaces. (The Economist, 2014)

David Harvey (1990), expresses criticism for postmodern spatial planning in urban areas due to its perceived inability to convey authenticity in terms of urban identity. Harvey asserts that postmodern urban spaces are all too often gentrified, repetitive and largely influenced by commercial endeavours.

The tour guide in the below video seems to share Harvey’s opinion with reference to the gentrification of East London and suggests that East London is one of the last areas in London to fall prey to gentrification and commercialisation, which may be characterised by the construction of high-rise apartment buildings which are expensive to rent or purchase as well as the inundation of the high street with well known ‘high street’ brands that continue to open up retail spaces in ‘up and coming’ areas, which ultimately pushes out smaller independent businesses that have likely operated in and helped to define the local area. The tour guide opines that gentrification of East London is making the area indistinguishable to other areas that have already undergone a process of gentrification. (Harvey, 1990 and Dykman, 2014)

Vice (2015), interviewed a group of East London council tower block residents who are opposed to plans to develop one of the two towers so that it may be sold off as private housing to fund redevelopment of both of the tower blocks. The blocks have housed working class residents since the 1960s and the proposed development will result in the loss of 74 council houses to a borough with a waiting list for housing as high as 20,000. This particular scenario is not unique and will undoubtedly leave a lasting effect on past, present and future residents of the area. This situation serves as a reminder of the following quote from Marshall Berman:

“The industrialization of production, which transforms scientific knowledge into technology, creates new human environments and destroys old speeds up the whole tempo of life, generates new forms of corporate power and class immense demographic upheavals, severing millions of people from their ancestral habitats…”(Berman, 1982)

Posted by: Dianne Bonney

References:

Berman, M. (1982). All that is solid melts into air. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Dykman, K. (2014). Commercialisation and Gentrification of London’s East End. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-naMbSVKJ08?rel=0 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2015].

Harvey, D. (1990). The condition of postmodernity. Oxford [England]: Blackwell.

National Geographic, (2012). East London. [image] Available at: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/wallpaper/2012/august-ngm-wallpaper#/06-east-end-london-670.jpg [Accessed 3 Feb. 2015].

The Economist, (2014). Chasing cool. [online] Available at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/blighty/2014/04/gentrification-london [Accessed 3 Feb. 2015].

VICE, (2015). East London Residents Talk About Gentrification | VICE | United Kingdom. [online] Available at: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/residents-of-fredd-wigg-and-john-walsh-towers-speak-to-vice-102 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2015].

Is East London losing its unique identity through gentrification and commercialisation?