At 8pm on Saturday 26th September, this year, Brick Lane’s Cereal Killer Cafe was full of families and tourists. As the customers enthusiastically tucked into bowls of cereal, from Coco Pops to obscure brands found only in South Korea, a splatter of red paint hit the window. Two hundred anti-gentrification protestors had assembled outside.
Reportedly, many were carrying pigs’ heads and torches. Events quickly escalated, and a smoke bomb was thrown into the hallway. ‘Scum’ was scrawled across the window. Amidst the panic, customers and staff had to drag furniture across the cafe to blockade the door, and stop the pig mask-wearing protestors from breaking into the building.
The surprisingly controversial cafe is owned by Alan and Gary Keery, a pair of gay, identical 33-year-old Irish twins. The brothers were alerted by the police, and by time they got down to their business, the crowd had been dispersed. They got their staff out and left the empty venue with the lights still on, music playing and a solitary box of Tesco own brand cornflakes thrown through the window. The irony of anti-gentrification protestors leaving their mark with a brand from a corporation like Tesco is not lost on the twins.
“It must have been terrifying,” says Gary. “I was so shocked, I couldn’t believe it. And then I was angry.”
“Someone throwing paint at our window is not going to solve gentrification,” adds Alan.
The twins inadvertently became the poster boys for gentrication when news of their cereal cafe idea hit the headlines last year. Trolls on Twitter were vicious with hatred. I remember being swept up, from afar, in the general anti-feeling myself. £3.20 for a bowl of cereal? Ridiculous. But then, is this any different from Starbucks, or any independent cafe, charging the same price for a latte?
“Two working class guys from Belfast who set up a small business?” says Gary. “We’re not gentrification. Gentrification is when people are buying up these council houses, and selling them on for huge profit. I think they targeted us because they knew it would get a lot of press.”
The full version of this story, by Patrick Cash, features in the January issue of Attitude – along with an accompanying profile of Adam Clifford, the anti-gentrification protestor who wants the gay scene re-politicised.