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The 'Evening Standard' Removed Quotes from a Piece for 'Causing Local Animosity'

A yoga studio received backlash after complaining about the "screaming" coming from African churches in Peckham.

Sam Wolfson

Sam Wolfson

Screenshot: The Evening Standard

So, quick gentrification update: a middle-aged middle class married couple, Emma Arnold and Sean Hitzelberger, were having a pretty tough time. According to their Evening Standard interview, they "met while working at the BBC and were reassessing what to do with their lives. Arnold was a freelance editor and stylist who had trained to be a yoga teacher, and Hitzelberger was unhappy in his ad sales career."

:(

Luckily they had "£20,000 of savings", so they decided to open a yoga studio called Yogarise in Peckham – because, they claim, they "tried to find classes nearby but couldn't", even though there have been a number of community yoga classes in the area for decades.

Anyway, they did an interview with the Evening Standard about it and, quelle surprise, it turns out they weren't that respectful of the existing communities when they rocked up and opened their trendy new spot.

Here's what the couple told the Standard:

Charming. Peckham has been home to a number of West African and Caribbean communities, and their churches, for the past 40 years. Yoga bunnies of this ilk have only moved in during the past decade. As for "the ghetto blasters and screaming", I'm guessing they mean a Sunday church service?

Unsurprisingly, the interview didn't go down that well with people familiar with the area:

So there you go: your typical 12-hour cycle gentrification Twitterstorm. The company apologises, they lose some business, everyone goes back to damning this terrible city.

Except that wasn't the end of it. The Evening Standard went back into the online version of the article and changed it to remove any mention of the church, the ghetto blaster, the screaming and the throwing of weight around. The passage now reads:

"When married couple Emma Arnold and Sean Hitzelberger opened up a yoga studio in Peckham's Bussey Building, they discovered a noise that was not so yin to their yang. Speaking in their light-filled warehouse-style studios, where woven cushions are strewn on the reception floor and a "Let go" sign hangs above the entrance to the class, Arnold explains the neighbours were noisy. "We'd pop by and say 'Excuse me, we have a yoga class in here," the 38-year old says."

A rather different telling of their story – a lot cosier, just someone popping by to see if the neighbours could keep it down. In fairness, perhaps the Evening Standard made this change because they had misquoted the couple initially? Oh no – a note at the end of the piece reads:

"This article has been edited from its original form after comments made by the founders created animosity locally."

Yes, it created animosity, they were animose comments. You can't go round saying "yeah our yoga studio's lovely now since we told all those existing religious communities to be quiet so we could hear our farts during child's pose" and not expect a bit of backlash.

But in the changed version they could be talking about anything – a building site drilling away at 8AM on a Sunday morning, or newer residents moving in and creating a racket. It completely changes the story. But why would they do it, if the old story was true?

Well, it turns Yogarise asked the Evening Standard to take the article down. This is fairly common when you say something stupid in print, but normal practice is for those requests to be roundly denied. Instead, according to Yogarise, they acquiesced.

They are, of course, correct. It is "too late to take things back". So why did the Standard change the article?

We've written before about how the Evening Standard is basically an out-of-touch high society magazine posing as London's only newspaper – a Tatler in sheep's clothing, if you like. But with two decisions made this week, it has proved beyond any belief whose side it's really on.

First, in their leader column yesterday about the Paradise Papers. You might think that even the most right-wing paper would express outrage at monied elites not paying their fair share and using devious means to do so, but not the Standard. Instead, they criticised the "sensationalist reporting" of the BBC, defended the Queen's investments and concluded that "we should not equate anyone who has financial investments overseas with criminals. If we do, then, rather than lamenting the collapse of trust in the institutions and rules that secure our freedom we will be contributing to that collapse." Heaven forbid those tax avoiders get a rough time in the media.

Second, by letting these monied gentrifiers have a second go at telling the story of how they moved into an existing community and then got shirty with African churchgoers, siding with the ad man rather than the residents of Peckham. It should be clear to anyone how those two editorial decisions were made, who was making them and whether the Standard is really on the side of Londoners.

@samwolfson