Monday, 3 September 2018

Over 100 Dalston artists open their studios to the public this weekend

Over 100 Dalston artists will open their studios to the public on Saturday from 11am to 5pm and there will be an exhibition and sale of work at St Marks Church Hall on Saturday extending into Sunday until 5pm as well.

You can plan an aesthetic trail on Saturday from this map showing the open studios. It shows where  the artists' studios, and the exhibition of work for sale ( plus tasty food), will be open to receive you. And don't forget the After Party on Saturday at SET, 27a Dalston Lane til 2am   

The exhibition of art and craft with food for sale at St Marks church hall is on both Saturday 8th until 7pm and Sunday 9th September until 5pm. 

Also on Sunday Dalston will be buzzing with the Hackney One Carnival parade. The parade starts out locally in Queensbridge Road at about 1.30pm and returns from Mare Street along  Dalston Lane from about 3.30pm - see map & timings here. ( Don't miss out on these great cultural events! Ed.) 

This DalstonArts150 short film gives the backstory of Dalston's 150 years of association with the performing and visual arts and explains why the character, cultural uses and affordability of the area are again under threat from "regeneration".

The artists' events are a continuation of the DalstonArts150 celebrations which have included an exhibition at Bootstrap Printhouse, a guided heritage trail and beautifully produced local map ( still available from Eastern Curve Garden),  a gospel choir concert at Shiloh Pentecostal Church and film screenings of our cultural heritage at Cafe OtoThe DalstonArts150 short film gives a background story of Dalston's 150 years of association with the performing and visual arts and explains why the character, cultural uses and affordability of the area are again under threat from "regeneration".

Thursday, 23 August 2018

This Monday 27th August - Winstan Whitter and friends screen "The Bastille Concerto " and "Legacy in the dust -the Four Aces story".

Winstan Whitter will be presenting and discussing his brilliant documentary film "Legacy in the dust: The Four Aces story" at a rare screening in Cafe Oto on Monday 27th August as part of the DalstonArts150 celebrations. You can read more about it and get tickets in advance here and on the door. The evening will begin with a very special treat - a trailer to Winstan's latest film "The Bastille Concerto" (see below)

Sharing the platform with Winstan will be the legendary Newton Dunbar who ran the Four Aces Club for 33 years at 14 Dalston Lane until its eventual compulsory purchase by Hackney Council and its demolition to subsidise the redevelopment of Dalston Junction - particularly TfL's £64million bus stop on The Slab above the station. ( You can read here the incredible but true Dalston story of the looting of public funds and of corporate welfare subsidy. Ed)

Also on the platform with them will be Keith Drummond, the former lead singer of the roots rock reggae band Black Slate and a regular performer at, and patron of, the Four Aces Club.

And there's a very special treat in store to start the evening - a sneak preview of Winstan's current 'work in progress'. This is how he describes it:

The Bastille Concerto
Director:  Tony Collins + Winstan Whitter
2018, 10mins
A short taster of a new film by Tony Collins and Winstan Whitter. 
The Bastille Concerto is the story of a piece of music composed by Malcolm 'Shorty' Jarvis whilst in prison with his friend Malcolm X. 
Now, 70 years after it was first composed it is being resurrected in the UK by a generation of Jazz artists who form part of its fascinating history.

Clifford Jarvis - the son of 'Shorty' who wrote the Bastille Concerto

"The Bastille Concerto" traces the story of a jazz composition passed from father to son and reveals links between Boston USA and Dalston UK and the part played by Pyramid Arts in its former home at 10-14 Ashwin Street, Dalston. The film includes footage of the brilliant jazz drummer Clifford Jarvis, known for his work with Sun Ra's Akestra, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and others, who settled in Dalston. Clifford became a mentor to many of the talented young musicians emerging in the UK 1980s jazz scene who have later gone on to win international acclaim.

The film evening is hosted by Cafe Oto in continuation of the DalstonArts150 celebrationsForthcoming events include a not-to-missed weekend of local artists' open studios on Saturday 8th September 

and an exhibition of art and craft with food for sale at St Marks church hall on both Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September. 

This short film gives a background story of Dalston's 150 years of association with the performing and visual arts and an explanation of why the character, cultural uses and affordability of the area are again under threat from "regeneration" .

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Unmissable opportunity to see Winstan Whitter's "Legacy in the dust - the Four Aces story"

Here's a rare opportunity to see Winstan Whitter's brilliant documentary film "Legacy in the dust: The Four Aces story". It will be screened at Cafe Oto on Monday 27th August as part of the DalstonArts150 celebrations. You can read more about it and get tickets in advance here and on the door.

The film charts the story of the legendary Four Aces reggae club which started life in 1966 in Dalston's  old 1886 Circus and Victorian Variety Theatre entrance halls at 14 Dalston Lane. The venue soon acquired an enviable reputation and went on to present reggae and soul artists of international standing, and later became The Labyrinth hosting dances and raves attracting thousands of visitors.

The main entrance of the former Labyrinth Club in Roseberry Place off Dalston Lane. The 1886 building was originally a circus, later a Victorian variety theatre and then the Gaumont Cinema until 1963

The film documents the developing cultural scene, with interviews and contemporary film footage, and explores the club's contentious relationship with the police and the local Council and its eventual closure and demolition to satisfy the requirements of the developers of Dalston Junction

The film is one of several which have built Winstan Whitter's reputation for radicaL documentary film making - others include You Cant Move History about the fight to preserve skateboarding on the South Bank and Save our Heritage  about the destruction of Dalston's architectural and cultural heritage. Winstan will be present to discuss his films and to present a trailer for his latest film - which traces the story of a jazz concerto passed from father to son, and reveals links between Boston and Dalston and the part played by Pyramid Arts of Dalston's Ashwin Street in the emerging 1980/90s jazz scene in the UK. (Fascinating stuff! Ed.)

This short film gives a Dalston background story of its 150 years of association with the performing and visual arts and an explanation of why the character, cultural uses and affordability of the area is again under threat from "regeneration" .

DalstonArts150 has been staging various events in 2018 to celebrate Dalston's 150 years of association with the performing and visual arts. Forthcoming events include a weekend of local artists' open studios  and an exhibition and sale of work at St Marks church hall on 8th and 9th September. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Hackney's planners blight Dalston's Curve Garden and public realm

Last Wednesday 6th June Hackney's Planning Committee gave permission for the Curve Garden's new Big Bad Neighbour to be built on the Thames House site next door.

The development will be like a 30 metre high cliff running right along the Curve Garden's southern boundary, not only blocking out most of its morning and early afternoon sunshine, but dominating the open space and destroying its feeling of intimacy.  You'll see the plans reported previously here.

In granting permission the Committee also pulled the final curtain across the Council's long planned Eastern Curve pedestrian 'green' public walkway. Sunshine will now be almost completely blocked out for the entire length of the proposed new public realm which curves eastwards from the Peace Mural along the former railway line round towards Dalston Lane bridge where it once joined up with the North London overground line.

The decision will have a particularly devastating impact on the community's Curve Garden and the 130,000 visitors each year who enjoy the natural environment in a dense urban setting, find solace there and enjoy its diverse cultural events.  

School children, who have very little access to open green space locally, come to play in the sunshine and learn about plants in a secure and secluded environment. The space will now become overshadowed and overlooked. 

The designs for the  new Thames House redevelopment have also been criticised for its sub-standard accommodation - the  new affordable family homes have been pushed into the darkest corner of the site (Block C) where 75% of kitchens,45% of bedrooms and 31% of living rooms will fail to meet BRE standards for natural light. Also contrary to planning policy, there will be no common amenity areas for the private residents and office workers.The cramped and overcast open spaces are said to be for "access only".

Strong objections were made to the Committee by Dalston Ward Councillors Soraya Adejare and Peter Snell as well as an impassioned plea from the Curve Garden's Marie Murray. Bill Parry-Davies, for OPEN, referred to the clear breaches of the Dalston Area Action Plan and the Council's recent Appraisal which warned that the greatest threat to the Conservation Area's character and numerous local heritage assets was from "large scale redevelopment" of precisely this type.

Planning Committee Chair Vincent Stops celebrating Hackney's "regeneration".
Who's been running rings round Mr Stops? Council officers and developers? Ed.)

Such was the Committee Chair, Vincent Stops's, enthusiasm  for the scheme that he proposed the Committee move to discussion and vote as soon as the objectors' allotted 5 minutes was completed. He had to check himself when realising that, in his "excitement", he had not thought it necessary to invite the developer's agent to justify its proposals. The Committee voted 5:1 to rubber stamp its planning officer's recommendation to approve the Thames House re-development scheme.

Despite the hundreds who have recently expressed their concern for the Curve Garden to the Council's planners it all seemed, once again, that the public's opinion - and even objections from our elected representatives - carried very little if any weight. Criticisms had been made of the planned development from the outset, but little was changed. Those criticisms were repeated again and amplified when the application was formally published and again when put to the Committee for approval.

The Eastern Curve public realm

Hackney's planned Eastern Curve public realm started life as a proposed "linear park" in the draft Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP). That received public support but, after the consultation closed, the Council changed the proposal to a hard surfaced "shopping circuit", linking Dalston Square to a proposed re-developed Kingsland Shopping Centre, with "some"green spaces. Despite OPEN's objections to the loss of bio-diversity, and the lack of evidence that a 'retail led' plan was viable, the government inspector approved the amended DAAP in October 2012.

The Eastern Curve planned new public realm started to take on its cliff like form when the 14-storey Kinetica Apartments tower obtained planning approval in 2007.

Next to it came the 8-storey Point1 Apartments in 2008

Finally, after the slow recovery following the 2009 banking crash, came Martel Place with its token  "public space" in a north facing canyon where the sum rarely touches the ground. The Thames House redevelopment will pull the final curtain across the Council's Eastern Curve public walkway and block out the remaining sunshine except at the very end of the day in summer.

The future of the Curve Garden

The damage to the Curve Garden's setting, and indeed its survival, will be compounded by new risks arriving with the Council's latest plans to "regenerate" the Dalston "Cultural Quarter". Hackney bought  the bomb damaged  1-7 Ashwin Street (Site 2), and the buildings and land bounding the Curve Garden's entrance, in 2009. It reported that its "masterplan has identified the need to regenerate the north side of Dalston Lane and Ashwin Street as a natural progression of the ongoing development to the south with Dalston Square” ( It didn't explain what was "natural" about the Dalston Square  development. Ed.)

In 2010 it then demolished the charming old houses at 2-8 Ashwin Street, without a full structural survey to investigate their potential for retention, to create another redevelopment site. Both of the 1-7 and 2 - 8 Ashwin Street vacant sites, as well as the surviving houses at 10-16 Ashwin Street which have been occupied for decades as affordable cultural workspace, and an unidentified area of the Curve Garden's land, are now included within Sites 2 & 3 as part of Hackney's plans for sale to a "private development partner" on terms which  will "maximise capital value and rental revenue for the Council". The Council will shortly unveil plans for a new public consultation on these proposals.

In September 2006 "The story that was never told"was published here. It described the authorities plans for demolition and "regeneration" of the south side of Dalston Lane. The story concluded with a prediction : "the authorities have already started work on Dalston Lane North. The planned destruction of historic Dalston is almost complete. The writing is on the wall." Since then we have witnessed the Council subsidising private developers to destroy the Dalston Colosseum, the  Dalston Lane Georgian terrace and the demolition or blighting of listed and locally listed buildings by TfL/Taylor Wimpey's developments to the north of Dalston Lane

The Dalston Cultural Quarter contains the last remnants of Dalston's architectural and cultural heritage and is now up for grabs. The Curve Garden, affordable cultural workspace and affordable housing are all at risk..

This short film gives a Dalston background story and an explanation of why the character, cultural uses and affordability of the area is again under threat from "regeneration

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Shiloh Pentecostal Church are offering Dalston a MASSIVE treat!!

Next Sunday 3rd June stars from the  London Community Gospel Choir  will be performing at the  Shiloh Pentecostal Church, Ashwin Street Dalston. Pastor Francis Lewis will open its doors at 6.30pm and inviting everyone in our local community, of all faiths and none, to share this massive treat. This event begins at 7pm and will be unmissable! It is part of the DalstonArts150 events celebrating Dalston's 150th anniversary of its association with the arts

Pastor Lewis, and musical director Jonathan Tuitt, have assembled some the finest stars of UK gospel music who will be performing a Night of Praise. The London Community Gospel Choir  travel the world enthralling audiences with their vibrancy, passion and the beauty of their music

Also performing will be Howie Hutchinson, born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1969, and who from an early age was said to have been created by God to sing. They were right! He is now a hugely popular reggae star

Also performing is Hackney's very own singing star Shezar - a young woman who is deservedly attracting more and more attention!

This will be an unforgettable evening as part of DalstonArts150 events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Dalston's association with the arts.  And if you arrive in good time then pop into the Printhouse at 18 Ashwin Street to see the DalstonArts150 exhibition. It tells the story about Dalston's diverse cultural and architectural heritage and is open from 3-9pm over the weekend

Thursday, 24 May 2018

DalstonArts150 is kicking off. Unmissable!

2018 is the 150th anniversary of  Dalston's association with the arts. It all started in 1868 with the building of Reeves and Sons Artists Colour Works factory in Ashwin Street. The local community is organising a number of cultural events over the year to celebrate this. And now they're starting to kick off

This short film gives a Dalston background story and an explanation of why the character, cultural uses and affordability of the area is again under threat from "regeneration

On Saturday 2th June there's an exhibition opening about Dalston's cultural and architectural heritage and the battles to preserve it over recent years. The exhibition is hosted by the Bootstrap Company in the Reeves and Sons  Printhouse Gallery,18-22 Ashwin Street E8 from Saturday 2nd June until Saturday 9th June. You can visit between   9am to 11pm on weekdays (until 4pm only on Monday Tuesday and Wednesdays and from 3pm on weekends). There will be several films, maps and photographs ancient to modern, campaigner's literature, artists artifacts, contemporary art works and  lots more. Unmissable!

An invitation from Pastor Francis Lewis of Shiloh Pentecostal Church to visit this historic building and to hear their fabulous Gospel Choir arranged by its musical director, and drummer, Jonathan Tuitt.

Don't miss this! On Sunday 3rd June at 6.30pm the doors of the 1871 Shiloh Pentecostal Church will open to welcome everyone, of all faiths and none, to see inside one of Dalston's best preserved heritage buildings and to hear, starting at 7pm, one of London's finest and vibrant Gospel Choirs lift their voices to the heavens.

In the Eastern Curve Garden you can pick up the beautifully designed and illustrated DalstonArts150 Heritage Trail map which will guide you around local places and tell some of their stories (And secrets. Ed.). And if you'd like a personally guided walk lead by local sage Sean Gubbins, email him on His affordable tour will begin outside Reeves and Sons  Printhouse Ashwin Street at 1pm on Saturday 2 June.

Other events coming soon will include local artists' open studios, an arts and crafts makers fayre and, hosted by Cafe Oto, there will be special film and music events including a screening of "Legacy in the dust - the Four Aces story" and an attempt on the world record for the longest continuous performance of improvised music. The attempt will need everyone locally, of all ages and abilities, who can sing, play, pluck, strum, bow, strike, blow or tickle anything resembling a musical instrument to bring it to to the event. More details of the events will follow as they emerge.


Sunday, 29 April 2018

Gillett Square plans - co-operative development or gentrification?

Hackney Co-Operative Developments, which owns and converted the 3-10 Bradbury Street terrace of houses to affordable commercial uses, and manages Gillett Square, has made a planning application to develop the terrace. All of its tenants  ( except the shops) will have to vacate elsewhere whilst the development takes place.

An artist's impression of the back of the Bradbury Street terrace overlooking Gillett Square, after the development 

The plans include constructing an additional 4th storey along the terrace and extending the rear elevation of the terrace further into the Gillett Square and encasing it within polycarbonate plastic and steel cladding. You can access  the HCD planning drawings and reports using application number 2018/0792 here The public consultation officially closes on 7th May. If there are numerous objections the application will need to be decided by Hackney's Planning Committee  in due course and not just its Head of Planning. You can comment on the application here or by sending an email quoting reference 2018/0792 to 

Architect's drawing of Gillett Square presently

The proposal has attracted controversy.The  exterior walkways,  and award-winning "market-pods" which  provide affordable and start-up business space, will be removed despite having won widespread acclaim and which do so much to animate the square. The new exterior finish will be one more characteristic of a glossy corporate headquarters rather than affordable work spaces for local people. Hackney Co-Operative Developments (HCD) hope to build replacement pods on the other side of the square.

Architect's drawing of Gillett Square after development 

HCD has been revealed not to be the model landlord one might have expected. Very few of its tenants have security of tenure and will simply be evicted if they don't accept HCDs terms for vacating. Although the development will be part-funded by public money from the GLA, HCD has refused to publish its financial viability projections for this costly scheme which  produces relatively little new lettable space to justify the expense.  To pay for the scheme rent rises in the future look likely . A joint letter from interested parties last October, urging  HCD to adopt a more inclusive approach, was rejected.

Architect's drawing of  the Bradbury Street front elevations showing the new 4th storey with pitched roof on top. 

HCDs historic terrace  is mirrored by a terrace of similar scale and period on the south side of  Bradbury Street. HCD's heritage consultants comment that "The view along Bradbury Street is deemed an important View within the [Dalston] Conservation Area....[the terrace]possess aesthetic value and make a positive contribution to the Conservation Area." 

Bradbury Street looking west lined with the historic Victorian terraces. the terrace to be developed is on the north/right side of the picture

The Dalston Conservation Area Advisory Committee, which is composed of independent  local architects and heritage experts, has commented on HCD's scheme "The proposed building is too large and too high. The volume is overbearing on the Gillett Square side, but also detracts from the collection of buildings of Townscape Merit on Bradbury Street. The dominant pitched form of the roof extension is inappropriate in the predominantly Victorian context and would damage the quality and character of the conservation area."   Despite the damage which the scheme would cause to the heritage value of Bradbury Street, HCD's consultants (somehow) conclude that  the scheme will "will preserve and enhance Bradbury Street." 

A computer modelled image of annual average overshadowing of the Gillett Square public space. 

Although the public open space of Gillett Square will still meet official BRE guidelines for a minimum  annual average of 2 hours sunlight over 50% of its area, the new development will reduce that area by about 18%. Then, when the north side of Gillett Square is finally developed, the area of sunlit public open space will be reduced further.

An Alternative Scheme 

Here is  a more modest alternative proposal for increasing affordable workspace by creating a simple mansard roof along the terrace. Without the high pitched roof  which HCD proposes, a mansard  would not dominate either Bradbury Street or Gillett Square. Neither would it involve spending valuable funds enclosing the building in plastic to create "break out spaces" which generate no additional rental income to pay for the scheme. This alternative  would also leave the  outdoor "market pods" in place, and the open walkways which add to the square's vitality. The alternative scheme would still generate sufficient income, from the new 4th story workspaces, to enable all the terraces facilities to be upgraded to contemporary standards. So what's wrong with that? HCD hasn't yet adequately explained its reasons for rejecting this alternative option.

You can access  the HCD planning drawings and reports using application number 2018/0792 here. The public consultation officially closes on 7th May. If there are numerous objections, and numbers do count, the application will need to be considered by Hackney's Planning Committee in due course You can comment on the application here or by sending an email quoting reference 2018/0792 to