AboutMethodologyObservations and InterviewsMap

Organising Online: A Digital Ethnography

This website is the result of an exploration of how local community members have been resisting the aggressively imposed changes in their neighbourhood over social media during the Covid-19 pandemic. My digital ethnography aims to understand how people in the South London neighbourhood of Brixton have leveraged digital means in a time where on-the-ground resistance is less feasible and unsafe. Save Nour was originally a social media tag to protest Nour Cash & Carry’s planned eviction from Brixton Market, with no credible reason or a replacement location, to make space for new developments. Nour Cash & Carry has been owned and operated by the Shaheen family and has been in the market for over 20 years. They supply food to a large majority of the surrounding restaurants. Brixton residents and local activists have long been expressing their concern about the cultural and heritage erasure happening to support this ‘regeneration’ of the area. Rent within Brixton Market is rising, and similar traders have been increasingly forced out in recent years.

Hondo Enterprises purchased the freehold of the market in 2018 for £37.25 million. This property development company is headed by a millionaire Texan named Taylor McWilliams who moonlights as a DJ part of a collective called ‘Housekeeping.’ McWilliams uses his own platform to support his image that he is an ethical landlord and musician who belongs to Brixton’s cultural scene. He originally claimed to be “saving” the Brixton institution Club 414 yet kicked out its original owners in 2018 (see the map for more information).

After months of lobbying, campaigning, and organising primarily by online means only due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Save Nour was victorious and the Shaheen family had secured a long-term lease at an affordable rent! However, they have now shifted their platform’s focus to address McWilliam’s plans for a 20-storey office block in Brixton right next to the famous Electric Avenue street market and the central Brixton heritage area. The building height would physically overshadow the surrounding buildings and even contravenes Lambeth’s own building height policy. There is little evidence of local demand for more office space of this nature in the area and there is no evidence that either Hondo or Lambeth Council took proper consultation with the Brixton community before going forward. Over 1200 initial objections were registered on Lambeth’s planning petition and nearly 6000 signatures on a petition in opposition to this development were ignored. The planning meeting that approved the plans argued that this tower would provide community space, but local people know that community space is not fostered at the base of a private office tower owned by a US hedge fund.

Save Nour Save Brixton has successfully utilized social media and digital technologies to remain vocal about the negative changes to their neighbourhood, widening the scope of public involvement in the process and ensuring profit-before-people developers aren't able to quietly come in and distrupt the entire character and nature of Brixton.

The background image on this page is © Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0