Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Retreat to Welwyn Garden City

I’ve been thinking about class a lot since moving to Welwyn Garden City. I get the feeling that it’s a bit of a dead issue these days, apart from a few columns in the New Statesman and whatever Trotskyite groups still survive on University campuses.

A delightful view of WGC

I’m thinking about class because I feel irredeemably middle class having moved to Welwyn, with its John Lewis, Waitrose and Daily Mail Model Village. Of course, although I come from a working class background, I was irredeemably middle class before I moved. I work as a poncey creative and read the Guardian. I just think that living somewhere as white, affluent and just plain NICE as WGC has confirmed it in some subtle way.

According to my leftist mother, leaving Leytonstone for Hertfordshire is a form of cowardly retreat – as urban neighbourhoods need a mix of classes to stop them from becoming even more deprived. I’m not sure I really understand this argument, as part of the reason we didn’t buy a place in E11 is because house prices are booming to the extent that we couldn’t find anywhere we could afford. If anything the middle classes are moving in.

So is it better to stay on the frontline and live somewhere gritty, urban and deprived? I remember particularly how Stoke Newington changed as the well-off middle classes colonised with their 4x4s and 3 wheeler buggies, driving up house prices, patronising ridiculously expensive organic bakers and vegetarian toddler-friendly restaurants. It feels like a form of tourism – getting off on the ‘vibrant’ authenticity of a poor area, while causing that area to lose its identity through your presence.

Of course, it’s particularly middle class to worry about these things. I think I’ll just enjoy the bird song, trees and politeness of WGC without guilt.

1 comment:

Steve said...

The class issue is very simple, matey. You've either got it or you ain't...