Thursday 10 July 2008

Regeneration Blues - a new poem by Dalston resident Michael Rosen

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
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?
Get developers in:
No time to wait
Reeee – generate.

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

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
The deal is done

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

'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.
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
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
And the people in it
Are the dregs on drugs

It goes to committee
And five men sit and take a vote
It goes 2-2
A great leap forward for the community
A revolution in thinking, a retail opportunity.

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.

History doesn't matter
The people who live there don't matter
The people who run shops don't matter
Don't matter
Nurseries, clinics, opens spaces, good cheap housing,
Don't matter

Look say the councillors
And they don't mean
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


  1. I was accosted in the street by someone called Parry Davies who claimed that the above didn't rhyme. I've counted at least 18 rhymes and several halfrhymes and several repeated end of line words. Leonard Cohen doesn't rhyme all his lines. OK, I'm not LC, but, Bill, puhleeeze! (only kidding! I'm dead chuffed you've put this up here. Thanks. (It's meant to be more generic than Dalston, as it applies to places all over the country.)

  2. I think I heard aright at a recent Stoke Newington Neighbourhood Forum that TfL are not entirely clear about how to use the new bus stand at Dalston junction.
    But - wait a minute -
    Although no buses or trains will go direct from here to Stratford, this new transport hub was said to be vital for the Olympics.
    It had to have a bus stand.
    The bus stand had to have an expensive concrete slab to sit on.
    In order to pay for the slab, tower blocks of flats had to be built and sold (none of them affordable).
    Dalston's heritage had to be sacrificed.
    And now they're not sure how to use it?

  3. Thank you. Depressing but mostly how it is, sadly.


  4. They've ruined historic Dalston. It is a national scandal. Those towers are a dated and discredited form of building and should not have been favoured over the plans that incorporated exisitng history, love and place.

  5. judging by michaels comments, becoming generic is becoming generic.
    great poem. thank you for putting it up here.


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