Kentrification – I invented this word! It was the late 90s, some time between New Lad and New Millennium, and I’d invited a food critic down to the Old Town. A fancy French restaurant had opened that week. Pierre had brought his brigade and Michelin star to Gate-sur-la-mer. The first rumours of a new arts centre were bubbling up. Kentrification summed up Pierre’s style and his élan. The old Greek Taverna had been whitewashed, bare brick was exposed, the menu included New Romney pigeon and couscous from the Carrefour in Boulogne.
But we were the only customers that day. The first bird seen by mariners is a blessing because it tells them land is near. But that first bird is cursed because it doesn’t have the strength to fly back. Poor Pierre, four years too early to benefit from kentrification.
Kentrification sprang up in the Sundays and on websites. I even tried to squeeze it into the Financial Times. Language is organic and connotations constantly change. Last week I saw it in an Estate Agent’s window and a cookery magazine. Soon it will become as meaningless – and as freighted with meaning – as up-and-coming and liminal space. By 2030 Margate will be old hat and the artistic community will have moved out to Canvey Island or even Boulogne. Kentrification will then be insult.
I’m not bitter – well, not that bitter – about forgoing royalties every time the word is used online and in conversations. Those handshakes in the Lifeboat and the occasional raised eyebrow of mutual artistic recognition at Resort Studios are enough for me. Who cares if my socio-linguistic skills aren’t quite the earner I thought they’d be? I certainly don’t want to grubbily monetise my art by setting up kentrification.com, for example.
Kent, from Latin cantia, from an ancient British Celtic name meaning ‘coastal district’ or ‘corner-land, land on the edge’, but also possibly ‘land of the hosts or armies’ + –fy, a word-forming element meaning ‘make into’, from Latin –ficare, ‘to make, do’.
Andreas will be at the Margate Mingler on Saturday 20th August – tickets here.