Sound, space and gentrification in Brixton, London

Authors: Kate Carr*, Creative Research Into Sound Arts Practice, UAL, London
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: gentrification, soundscape, sonic geography, london, brixton,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Oakley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the late 1990s Brixton has emerged as a major site of activism against gentrification in London, culminating in the 'Reclaim Brixton' march in 2015. The district, which came to global attention in 1981 with the Brixton uprising stemming from the treatment of Black Britons by the police, is one of the major centres of Carribbean migration in London, giving this fight against gentrification prominent racial as well as class cleavages. This paper revisits these cleavages through an examination of the changes in Brixton's distinctive soundscape, asking what insights sound can add to understandings of urban social contestation. Gentrification has largely not been examined from a sonic perspective, however in Brixton, an historical centre of sound system culture and Black British reggae production, gentrification has been linked with an erosion of the bass thump of reggae from the soundscape, and important debates over major building developments have centred on what sounds should be made and heard where. In examining gentrification from a sonic perspective I link work within urban geography on space and subjectivity to insights within sonic theory on the creative potential of listening to explore if sound could be positioned as an entry point for re-examining urban contestation, as well as a means of experiencing, envisaging and making change in contested areas.

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