Warmly-written words shroud a bleak sketch of London
In his final book documenting London, the writer and walker Iain Sinclair chronicles the city he feels he is losing.
It is a look at a city in the grips of “regeneration” and gentrification, from the edges and hidden corners. This is a document of a growing gap between rich and poor. Through journeys and collaborations, Sinclair charts a city that, he says, has taken on an increasingly neoliberal character since Margaret Thatcher.
He rails against the creep of privatisation into public spaces and the architectural vanity projects going up everywhere.
The Olympic Park, “a ‘park’ only in the sense of retail park or car park”, close to his Hackney home, is singled out.
The Shard, where he swims in the pool after having to show his passport, is contrasted with Haggerston Baths, closed in 2000 to become luxury flats.
He journeys out of the city, down to the south coast—just as London’s residents are also having to do.
Throughout he highlights the corruption of a system that puts profit ahead of the needs of communities, where developers and politicians so often go hand in hand.
Sinclair’s prose makes this an enjoyable read. His vivid descriptions of the places he encounters are scattered with warm, witty descriptions of ordinary people and a sharp anger towards the rich.
He suggests that thanks to technology we no longer move around the city but “above” it, disengaged and disinterested.
And it is through warm descriptions Sinclair shows the ordinary people who have the power to resist the changes.
You get a feeling from him though that it is depressingly inevitable that we will always live in cities dominated by big business and profit.
But Londoners, and others, have shown that we can resist.
Written by Iain Sinclair. Published by Oneworld Books, £18.99