By Tony Browne
When I heard that Holiday Inn were coming to Brixton, I was actually excited. There is a real need for affordable guestrooms in Brixton. When friends and family visit, I can either put everyone up in my son’s tiny nursery, or pack them off to another part of London thirty minutes away. A low-cost alternative on my doorstep would make a huge difference to me, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
But I’m also excited for the wider community. At 8%, Lambeth has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. We can’t afford to reject a £4.5m investment into Brixton, bringing with it an influx of tourism and jobs. Decent, stable work brought to an area of acute unemployment; these uplifting stories are a rarity nowadays.
Depressingly though, there’s a sweeping tide of rose-tinted conservatism which seems to follow announcements like these. For me, Brixton is a liberal and progressive community which welcomes all-comers and constantly evolves. Some of the hysteria and snobbery I’ve seen recently wouldn’t look out of place in the most reactionary of Middle-England village halls.
“Gentrification gone mad!” “Horrified and disgusted!” “This is the start of the end!” Remember, this used to be a Woolworths. Woolworths. Not an independent record store, or handmade clothing stall, or another kind of business deemed quintessentially ‘Brixtonian’ by our community conservatives. It was a corporate department store. Why is a corporate, budget hotel any less Brixton?
I’ll concede that the Brixton high street is overwhelmingly corporate. From TK Maxx to Starbucks to H&M, independent stores are at a premium. But this is just one stretch of shopfront amongst the many that we’re blessed with. What about Atlantic Road? Coldharbour Lane? Brixton Village? Full of interesting, unique, independent stores. Have we really ever had it so good?
When it arrives, the Holiday Inn will bring income, tourism and desperately needed jobs into our area. The company will invest millions turning a huge, unused space into something that will benefit our community, and support our local, independent businesses. Most importantly though, I might have fewer people sleeping on my couch.
Read the opposing view by Kevin James: New chain hotel erodes what diversity we have left.