Gentrification debate organiser defends £20 entry fee

Tom Hodgkinson says the company is a 'tiny arts organisation' with no outside funding and relies on ticket sales

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The Independent Culture

The organiser of a debate on London gentrification that was criticised for charging a £20-entry fee has defended the charge, saying it was the only way the company could pay its staff.

An event organised by The Idler Academy called “Is London dying? Iain Sinclair and Tom Hodgkinson in conversation” due to be held on Brick Lane in Shoreditch, east London in May attracted derision on Facebook, with commentators saying the price tag proved London was “already dead”.

Another said it worked out at “22p a minute”. 

Mr Hodgkinson, who runs the academy - which is the educational and debating offshoot of The Idler magazine which he founded in 1993 - told The Independent the company had no arts funding or outside sponsorship so they needed to charge fees in order to operate. 

He said: “We are a very small company with no arts funding, no outside sponsorship, so all the money that we make comes through the front door from our customers. 

“It’s a very pure business model that people don’t really understand because when they go to something and it’s very cheap generally it’s because there is a sponsor and there is outside funding. 

“For a tiny arts organisation with a staff of one and a half people it is grossly unfair to accuse them of profiteering when they are just trying to put on a good event.”

Anti-gentrification protesters attack cereal cafe in Brick Lane

He said the only way to reduce the costs of running these sorts of events would be to expect his creative staff to work for free. 

“If you don’t charge enough for these events you don’t pay the creative people who are providing the content”, he explained.

“That is a really important issue for me because [people] are [now] being brought up in a world where creative people don’t get paid unless they sell advertising so what we want to do is charge enough money so we are able to pay all the workers.”

He said they were now also offering half price concession tickets to students, artists, writers and people who felt they were unable to afford the £20 price tag. 

It comes after another Brick Lane business, the Cereal Killer Cafe, was attacked in September last year by anti-gentrification protesters who daubed the shop front in paint. 

Mr Hodgkinson said the attack on the cereal cafe was “absolutely ridiculous”.

He said: “You know attack Google, attack Facebook, but don’t go onto Facebook and whine about a tiny fanzine or cafe that is trying to create something new. 

“We are trying to build up a business where creative people are paid for their work and the money has to come from somewhere so we charge a reasonable ticket price”.