With each new article in The Guardian, there’s more of them. Down-from-London (DFL) types or F.I.L.T.H (Failed in London Try Hastings), wandering around the Old Town at weekends, peering in John Bray & Son’s window after visiting the Jerwood Gallery. Their first visit to what they see as a quaint fishing village, with actual working class people that they just don’t see in their neighbourhood in Zone 1 or 2, puts the zap on their head. Sampling, rather than actually living the gritty reality of Hastings combined with the clean air and the rolling waves, makes them feel alive, the way endless weekends spent sipping Sancerre and Instagramming yet another plate of food from some pop-up hipster eatery in town or blogging about another tedious exhibition of mediocre trustafarian artwork, just doesn’t.
After the third or fourth visit, thoughts turn to moving down here. They want The Crown in Crown Lane to be their local and eat at places Jay Rayner has reviewed. So what if bar snacks in these places cost the same as what the locals have to feed a family of four on per day. **** ’em. The only trouble being there’s no new media industry or any jobs at all in Hastings where a degree from Goldsmith’s would be a distinct advantage or a CV that contains the word ‘curated’. If they sell up in the smoke, what would they do? There is an art scene, but there are no millionaire/billionaire patrons to keep them in Lemon Sole and Chablis, who’d buy their embarrassing daubs or things with seashells and driftwood stuck to them. So they decide to do what they do best, use the money they made buying council houses in the pits of South London in the 80’s and now rent out or their trust fund, to do a little gentrification, i.e. working class community ****.
What that comes down to, is property ‘development’ for DFLs or providing goods and services for other DFLs, not the local community, they can **** off to Bexhill for all they care. They would do this in Brighton, but have you seen the prices darling? Property development, i.e. poncing places up to sell to other DFLs is the easiest, most satisfying and profitable for them. With an almost endless supply of 80’s slum landlord hovels to buy up, the pickings are good. All they have to do is spend a few grand on repairs (that the slumlord would not do for 30 years), strip the floors and expose any brickwork and the job is half done. Then comes their favourite bit, the pleasure of spending endless hours perusing high-end kitchen and bathroom fittings brochures and picking that right hue of battleship grey to paint the interior. Another one for local estate agents to market to the greener DFLs.
The more ambitious (or sufficiently loaded to know a failed business would far from bankrupt them), open up restaurants that only other DFLs can afford to eat in. Where the old town is more than catered for, they usually go for that ‘up and coming’ area of central St Leonards… Pieces of slate instead of plates, brioche buns, chips in mugs, you get the picture, all at menu prices the local can only stare at in disbelief and then laugh at. However, their consciences are clear, because they hire 2 locals on zero hour contracts on the minimum wage to clean and wash up. They are the wealth (for themselves) and job creators!
So the process has begun. In 20 years time, Hastings will become the bourgeois, bland, soulless, working-class-cleansed location they initially wanted to escape from… but with lovely sea views.
Addendum: To illustrate the fact that the cleansing has started, a DFL in a DFL Facebook group was spotted mulling over the idea of buying beach hut (well buying the right to rent a bit of beach front from Hastings Borough Council for an exorbitant fee) not for themselves, but as a ‘buy-to-let’ investment…
Written by @colinsellens