Tuesday 21 October 2008

Dalston author, Iain Sinclair, banned from speaking on Hackney premises

Hackney Council has banned Dalston's best selling author, Iain Sinclair, from discussing his forthcoming book in its libraries and other Council premises. A long-standing invitation to discuss the book, which chronicles his 40 years living in Hackney, has been withdrawn on the instruction of the Council's Corporate Director of Community Services. The book is not due to be published until February but Hackney sought to justify its decision because the author has expressed opinions which are critical of the Olympics and the authorities regeneration schemes. You can read what Iain Sinclair has to say here and hear him speak:

From the Today Programme - Radio 4, Tuesday 21 October 2008

This is what a Hackney Council spokesperson said: "Ian Sinclair is well known as an author who has expressed controversial opinions on local issues, such as regeneration and the 2012 Olympic legacy. A decision was taken that it would be inappropriate to launch this book about Hackney in a Council owned facility, as we do not wish it to appear that the Council condones or shares opinions expressed within the book. The same decision would be taken about launching any book expressing controversial or political opinions from a Council owned facility. The Council is happy to advise Mr Sinclair's publishers on more suitable venues in the borough, such as independent bookstores."


  1. I just went to hackney web site and made a formal complaint.

    I suggested they change Dalston Square to Tianmen Square if that is the line they want to go down.

  2. If any other Hackney residents out there think that this is a worrying develoment - a council banning a writer from speaking because he has expressed opinions they don't like - please, please write to or email the mayor, Jules Pipe. Here are the contact details:

    Jules Pipe
    Mayor's Office
    Hackney Town Hall
    Mare Street
    E8 1EA
    Tel: 020 8356 3220

  3. "A decision was taken that it would be inappropriate ... " Taken by whom?

    Banned from our libraries!!! Don't forget to request a copy of this book from your local library.

    Let's hope lots of Hackney's head teachers would welcome a visit by this distinguished author!

    At this rate, how soon before LBH bans Michael Rosen?

  4. It is quite clear that Hackney Council cannot tolerate any opposition to the party line. Their consultation processes are tick box exercises and ignor public opinion. They have silenced legitimate objections to planning applications which violate their own and the London Assembly's guidelines and they now seek to ban people from expressing their views. Can those of us who have responded to this blog expect the thought police on our doorsteps?

  5. We have to trust our Council officers on this one. Sinclair is dangerous - apparently the power of his writing is such you don't even have to read his new book to know what he's saying and even the thought of him opening his mouth has been known to cause an acute attack of Stalinitis.

  6. Grow up. It's a breach of council rules to use taxpayer funded premises for public meetings that are "political". There is a blanket ban applied to all political causes whether they are saying positive things about the council or not. It primarily exists so that the BNP and other bigots cannot claim an equal right to hire council premises to preach hate.

    He's rather cleverly publicised a book that otherwise very few people would have heard of. Good luck to him. But there's no general right of authors to use their local library to hold events - it's up to the library and ultimately the council who they let in.

  7. Eh? Sinclair isn't a political party, he wasn't seeking to hire the Library (but was invited by the Librarian) and didn't ask for the publicity which Hackney's sensitivities have bestowed upon him. By hey! Let's not let the facts get in the way of obfuscation as to why he's been banned.
    PS Luke Akehurst is Hackney's Deputy Mayor, Chief Whip of the local Labour Party and a professional PR man.

  8. Hackney Council get themselves in a hole and what does Luke Akehurst do but keep digging. Just when I was starting to warm again to the Labour Party, the attitude of Akehurst and his cohorts makes me realise we must get rid of them at the earliest opportunity.

  9. Re. Luke Akehurst's comment -
    Exactly what "political cause" does Iain Sinclair represent?
    When did a book launch by someone not associated with a political party become a "political" meeting?
    And isn't the Olympics claimed by its proponents to be beyond politics?
    Or maybe I just need to grow up.

  10. Clear Hardly is wrong. The Deputy Mayor of Hackney (and Cabinet Member for Housing) is the slim and fragrant Cllr Jamie Carswell.

    On the other hand, Luke Akehurst is merely a fictitious character invented by the Tories/Greens/LibDems/treehugging anarchist swimmers and cyclists - in a vain attempt to discredit our glorious Hackney Labour Party.

  11. I would have expected nothing less (or different) from Luke Akehurst

  12. Luke Akehurst is a PR man for the Arms Industry. What a nice man

  13. BMTRA would be honoured if Iain Sinclair would care to read extracts from his new book or anything else on the Saturday market (and he'll get a far bigger audience than Stokey library, weather permitting).Contact: (Chair, Broadway Market Traders' and Residents' Association)

  14. Same old Hackney (labour) always cheating.

    The stalinists will ensure we all stay on song!

    For a governing party with an overwhelming number of PR luvvies within it's ranks, it is amazing to watch Hackney labour lurch from one wholly avoidable PR disaster to the next.

    You can't PAY to get this kind of entertainment.

    Oh wait - we do...

  15. I've never had Iain Sinclair down as particularly controversial let alone explicitly political. As one of the few writers with anything positive to say about Hackney you'd think the Council would be falling over themselves to host him. After all he has been criticised by others for (perhaps inadvertently) laying the groundwork for gentrification by making working class areas sound interesting and vaguely exotic -(not sure I personally endorse this critique). Still it's every publisher's dream for some clumsy bureaucrat to do something like this and Sinclair will doubtless have the last laugh when his 'banned by Hackney Council' book is bought by loads of people as a result of the publicity. Meanwhile Luke who? who will vanish into deserved obscurity.

    Knowing how local councils work, this must have come about as a result of the direct intervention of a councillor seeking to silence a critical voice.

  16. Transpontine said... "Knowing how local councils work, this must have come about as a result of the direct intervention of a councillor seeking to silence a critical voice."

    However, Luke Akehurst wrote: "If I or any other councillor had made or been consulted on the decision about Mr Sinclair's book launch we probably would have gone with your call on it and decided it wasn't within the scope of the council's rules about political meetings and should go ahead.

    But elected councillors don't make those kind of operational decisions about room hire in libraries, and an Officer has interpreted the rule the way they have, so we are unfortunately where we are. I have no idea why the person concerned thought it was a "political" event.

    The rule though is an important one - there are some obvious speakers you wouldn't want to have in public libraries - it's a shame Mr Sinclair has got tangled up in a rule that was never designed to restrict legitimate authors like him."

    So will Luke Akehurst be at the forefront of any movement to get this injustice - on an innocent and well-respected Hackney resident - overturned and ensure any censure or reprimand warranted is carried out on the officer responsible for this "political" balls up? [I think we all know who she is.]

    Or is it a return to "the Rotten Borough of Hackney - business as usual"?

  17. Stoke Newington has a long and worthwhile tradition of playing host to dissenters and non-conformists but I suppose the irony, banning a dissenting author from Stokey library, is lost on the small-minded jobsworthy of Hackney Town Hall.

  18. dyanne costello asks, how long before Michael Rosen is banned? I may not be banned from the libraries, but I think there's an unofficial block on me from the education authority, The Learning Trust. Since the Trust came into being (because the old LEA was completely defunct)I think I've been invited by them to do one thing only - and that was help open Betty Layward school. In this time, there have been hundreds of school book weeks in Hackney schools, Learning Trust people dashing into the schools trying to up the interest in schools in getting the children reading and then to crown it all, they've been running some kind of year of reading in Hackney. At no stage have I been invited to do anything. Perhaps they think I'm crap. Fair enough if they do. It's just a bit bizarre given that I'm asked to do teacher training all over the country, do shows for children, visit schools all round the boroughs on the edge of Hackney etc etc. At any time in the last thirty years Hackney could have hired my services to be a kind of books/poetry/literacy person working in schools encouraging a love of books in general and poetry in particular. They never have. In the first few months of my moving into Hackney the youth librarian chief, John Spence, hired me and Susannah Steele to visit every library in the borough to do a poetry and story telling show for local schools, so by the end of the fortnight we had reached every primary school in the borough. He retired not long after and the process has never been repeated and yet recently I've done the equivalent in places all over the country eg Telford, Kingston, Glasgow, Inverness etc etc

    Maybe not a ban. Maybe an informal nod and a wink. Just to be clear, I'm not looking for work. My requests folder is way too big for me for meet more than about five per cent of requests. I'm just telling this story because no one else knows could.

  19. Looks like Hackney's lost its way on this one. Perhaps this explains it:

  20. Many Libraries have a policy banning political events - but most of those that do have a written statement of policy or guidelines that Librarians can refer to. If Hackney don't have written guidelines or a statement of policy then they should produce some so that arbitary decisions like this are prevented. If they have them already they should publish them.

  21. More obfuscation from Luke Akehurst who is quoted above as saying "it's a shame Mr Sinclair has got tangled up in a rule that was never designed to restrict legitimate authors like him." In fact the Librarian issued the invitation to Iain Sinclair perfectly properly but it then was withdrawn by an intervention from the Council's very highest level - its Corporate Director of Community Services. That Director's micro-management of library usage is unprecedented. It was not the rule ,but Hackney's sensitivies to the author's views, that caused the problem.

  22. Clear Hardly's link (above) is here. Hackney lost its way? How true!

  23. Anyone yet caught a glance at the letter signed by Der Kommandant, aka Kim Wright, corporate director of community "services"?

  24. You would have thought a good PR person would need to know about well known writers – especially if they specialise in London – and culture in general. And that there would be someone in the Town Hall to stop the mayor making a fool of himself by insulting a (former?) Children’s Laureate and eminent Radio 4 personality.

  25. with details of Hackney's Refusal Notice for the purposes of s.17 Freedom of Information Act 2000.





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