The Job Centre - Creating work for the outraged

The Job Centre pub on Deptford High Street, has earned itself an article on The Guardian's Comment is Free (the left-wing version of the Daily Mail sidebar of shame) today.

The article by Jane Elliott criticises the decision by owners Antic to name the pub after the building's old function, accusing them of insensitivity at a time of austerity and in an area of deprivation - with irony no defence. Elliott calls it "unemployment packaged as fun decor for those with disposable cash."

While BC wouldn't have gone down the route Antic chose, we're not quite sure what the philosophical difference is between naming a pub after a job centre (a place designed to help those in need) and naming a private club after a hospital (a place designed to help those arguably in even greater need).

In the course of the article, the author - herself a newcomer and suffering a little from gentrifier's burden - manages to chuck in a couple of clich├ęd untruths about the impact of change on the area. First she writes:

"Older residents see the more affordable stores on which they depend displaced by pricier establishments."

That is not a picture of Deptford High Street that anyone would recognise. In addition to the dozens of shops that have served the local community with varied, low-cost produce for years, there are many more pound shops and a thriving market, catering for the frugal. The bar, like many other new arrivals, has displaced nothing other than an empty shell.

Elliott also describes Deptford as a victim of:

"A perfect storm of gentrification and austerity currently dismantling low-income neighbourhoods."

But while individuals may have been hard hit by recession and reform, the same cannot be said of the neighbourhood. Not only is the private sector healthy but Deptford is uncommonly well-served by public investment - a refurbished swimming pool and leisure centre, a brand new library and community centre and a handsome new public square sit side-by-side, right in its heart, while the markets ensure that Deptford is the busiest, buzziest part of Lewisham at weekends.

Like The Secret History of Our Streets, this article begins with a valid thesis and then veers off into negative caricature in order to make the narrative fit their political agenda. It does no-one any favours - not least the people of Deptford, who deserve to have their home celebrated in the media for a change.