Estate of War

by Potent Whisper

If you live in London, there’s two words – most recently –
That you will have likely heard more and more frequently:
“Redevelopment” or otherwise known increasingly as “Regeneration”
Which isn’t what it seems to be…
Our councils really love to just regenerate a place!
To elevate a space, to regenerate estates
They’re regenerating London in abundance as we speak
But have you ever wondered what these words actually mean?

I mean, the term “redevelopment” implies a type of progress
And the council make it sound like a beneficial process
Which has to make you wonder why there’s been so many protests
Against regeneration on estates, it makes no sense
(Until you look at the evidence from previous developments
And find that none of these “benefits” actually benefit the residents)
You see, when they redevelop homes they also redevelop rent
When they redevelop rent, then we develop debt
We get evicted and shifted out of ends
When they redevelop bricks, we have to redevelop friends

Maybe you thought you knew what ‘redevelop’ meant
But if you believe that we develop, please develop sense
You’d better fight for us or you’ll be redeveloped next
And then we’ll all be redeveloped til we’re redeveloped dead

You could be a sister, a neighbour, a parent, a mother
A carer, a saviour, a friend or a brother
They couldn’t care if you bled in the gutter
You could be dead, cos to them you’re a number

To them, you’re just the amount of money
that they can sell your home for.

Like:
“Good afternoon £800,000,
How are you, £800,000?
I hope this letter finds you well… it’s worth £800,000
I’m writing about your property, I’m sorry but you’ve got to leave
You’ll be on the street but to me, £800,000
It’s the sound of progress, it’s a scary process but council always knows best
Please, £800,000
Think of all the other houses we could build when yours is down
(And we could get them forking out around £800,000)
But you can come back… for £800,000
But please don’t be sad if you lack £800,000
Because whenever you’re feeling down and out
Or looking for money down the couch
Remember that to me, you’re worth £800,000.

Yours sincerely,
Councillor Matthew Bennett.”

But Matthew Bennett’s a big man, plus there’s big plans in the pipeline
Our tube will get a nightline, the food is getting quite fine
Everybody wants to live in Brixton, it’s the high life!
So smashing our homes to dust has come just at the right time…

Now, admittedly I’ve got a biased background
I’ve stood and seen my best friends have their houses smashed down
I’m already angry, and anger clouds reality
So let me detach myself and just look at the “facts” now:

Cressingham Gardens Estate. South West London
Three hundred houses and the council wanna crush them
Each house has around a three person count
So that’s 900 people who stand to lose their house

The council explain that the estate needs work
And over one third of properties need a refurb
(Because they left them to decline, which happens all the time
You’ll be quite surprised if you do some research)

Now a full refurb will cost 7 mill – it’s nothing
But the council have announced that they can’t afford that
Despite having received a hundred million pounds in funding
And despite having collected rent for forty years before that

So, instead of spending 7 million on refurbishments
Which they’ve already said they have available now
They wanna smash the houses down, build around the same amount
And that’s gonna cost £110 million

But according to the council, this all makes sense
Cos they intend to build 27 extra homes at council rents

Hahaha, yeah –
They wanna spend £110m, on 27 extra houses
While there’s a housing crisis and the waiting list has thousands
That’s not efficient or sufficient, why do we allow it
When it only serves to benefit developers and councillors?

But you know what… even if residents could afford to move back
What makes the council think they’d even want these new flats?
Not everything that’s new is necessarily improved
The council just assume that they’d even wanna do that

They forget that in these homes people raised their families
These walls have shared their happiness and faced their every tragedy

They forget that a home is a community, a neighbourhood
And no amount of “new” could make me feel the way my neighbours could

They forget that, the difference between a home and house
That a house can’t be made a home for any one amount
They forget about the elderly who’ve spent their whole lives here
They’ve got a right to stay here, they’ve got a right to die here
It’s sad to be said, but it has to make you wonder
Whether they “ forget” or just care more about a number…

Maybe you thought you knew what ‘redevelop’ meant
But if you believe that we develop, please develop sense
You’d better fight for us, or you’ll be redeveloped next
And then we’ll all be redeveloped til we’re redeveloped dead.

We just want a place to live, that’s what our estates are for
It’s time to fight, to try and survive.
We’re living in estate of War.

 

Potent Whisper is a rapper, spoken word artist and community organiser. The Rhyming Guide to Grenfell Britain is available on Dog Section Press.

Illustration: Marco Bevilacqua

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