Salah’s answer was ‘no’ when property developers came to talk to him about buying his café and home. He told them he wanted to stay and live out his final days there.
Since then, the “Chez Salah” café has become something of a symbol, an outpost in the no man’s land that is the dilapidated working-class neighbourhood of houses and factories. In its place, project backers have announced: “the Union site is set to become a model for the sustainable city, combining accommodation, businesses and facilities. The 80-hectare former industrial site is currently one of the most significant urban development projects in France”.
In Roubaix, a commune in northern France that has borne the brunt of deindustrialisation in western Europe, Salah has received the support of associations, documentary makers and newspapers alike, and his café is still there, standing proud.
“Chez Salah” also bore witness to the disappearance of workers and ceasing of industries which contributed to the wealth of the Europe of yesteryear. It is probably due to this that the symbol of “Chez Salah” is both compelling and moving.