Friday 25 July 2014

Regeneration is Degeneration

Regeneration blues

Once upon a time
In days of old
Great minds tried to figure
How to turn metal
Into gold
They dreamed of the day
When a chunk of iron
Could make them rich
Turn junk into treasure
A magic formula

They failed
Never found it

But the news is: it's happened near you.
In the city centres
Along by the canals
And the old railway yards
Land worth a little
Is now worth a lot
The same patch of mud
Sitting under a shed
Under an old shop
Car park or cinema
Has turned into gold.

In the town halls
Councillors get excited:
“That old street
full of shops
run by people from
Africa, Turkey, the Middle East
With flats up above –
Aren't they on short lease
Cos we were once
Going to put a road through there?
That old pool
That old school
Don’t we own that?
You know what?
We could demolish the lot
Get developers in:
No time to wait
Reeee – generate.

put up high-rise

Buy to rent
For young professionals
Yo-pros, don't you know.
Change the geography
Change the demography


So the developers arrive
With their brochures
And sharp shoes
Their power points
and bullet points

They've done the sums
They can make it work
If the council plays a part:
If it compensates
Covers losses
Shares the load
Builds a road
It's a partnership
Public private
Private public
The area will be
Our money will

The deal is done

But the law says 'Consult'
A meeting is held
And on the screen
The derelict sheds
And the crumbling shops
'Look!', they say, 'The area will die.
We'll build towers of steel and glass
To the sky.'

Towers full of the salaried and sleek
Towers with no old people or babies
Towers for people who need gifts and coffee
Only available from brand-name shops.

'Transport links will improve'
Say the councillors we elect
'Everyone will benefit, don't object
There'll be a new library.
In there...

The meeting is noisy
The shopkeepers say
The tenants say
They want to stay

People say
They want the Turkish bread
And the Indian rice.
Someone says that the buildings are old
They could be restored
Why take away memories
They used to make places
Where we could walk about
Squares and cul-de-sacs
Not canyons between tower blocks.

Someone says
We're desperate for places where families can live
Places where kids can play
Clinics on hand, not miles away
And ground floor flats for the old and disabled

The meeting ends in a riot
When one of the councillors
Says: people round here have no ambition
They want to live in a dump
And the people in it
Are the dregs on drugs

It goes to committee
And five men sit and take a vote
It goes 2- votes to 2
even stevens
So the chair says he must decide
He’s in favour of high-rise
A great leap forward for the community
A revolution in thinking, a retail opportunity.


Within a week the bulldozers hit
the shopkeepers and tenants have to quit.

Someone digs in files and papers
And finds that the chairman of the committee
Is on the board of a firm
That will supply the locks
In the high-rise blocks.

But it's too late to stop.
He says he forgot 
to declare an interest
but it’s too late to stop

History doesn't matter
The people who live there don't matter
The people who run shops don't matter
People who need places for people who have kids
Don't matter
Nurseries, clinics, opens spaces, good cheap housing,
Don't matter

Look say the councillors
And they don't mean

of the developers’ bank accounts

As the blocks go up
It's income up
But it's us who subsidize
Private high-rise
Regeneration is a lie
Regeneration is a lie
Regeneration is
Is degeneration