Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Twelve days of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

... Twelve legends dining


This image, by OPEN's Brian Cumming, shows some of the stars of popular entertainment who were associated with the now demolished 1886 Dalston Circus and Theatre buildings. They include Sir Robert Fossett (1886 circus owner), Marie Lloyd (1870-1922 Hackney's very own international music hall star), Stevie Wonder (played there in 1963 with his American band), The Club Four Aces produced Desmond Dekker (in 1969 - with his first UK reggae hit 'The Israelites'), Bob Marley (ate curry goat there), The Prodigy (began their career at the Labyrinth) and then there was Sid and Nancy.

You can learn about the demolition of old Dalston by watching Winstan Whitter's short film "Save our Heritage" .

Hackney Council demolished the historic buildings in 2007 and sold the land (for a peppercorn) to help fund New Dalston's unaffordable private towerblock flats, brand name shops and a bus station on The Slab in Dalston The Slab turned out to cost £63 million but is only to be used by one bus - the 488 extended route from Clapton.

... Eleven pipers piping


This year Hackney Mayor Pipe's Cabinet approved the grant of a lease of the new Dalston Square Library's cafe to a local business selling Starbucks coffee. The Council's report bemoaned the failure of its extensive marketing to attract a national cafe chain store as a direct lessee but recommended that some Starbucks franchise branding was better than nothing.

The retail units in Dalston Square were originally planned and built to try and attract national chain stores. Nevertheless the Starbucks news provoked outrage amongst Dalston's twiterati. "Up and coming Dalston just became got up and left" said one. Dalston's twiterati champion local character and the numerous independent businesses opening in Dalston. If the Council pursues its love affair with brand stores could Dalston eventually become an identikit town centre, a non-place, which could be anywhere?

.......Ten Lords a leaping

(Click on image to enlarge)

OPEN's Patron is Lord Low of Dalston. A non-party, cross bench, peer who speaks for the greater common good. He is the President of the European Blind Union amongst his many accomplishments. This year the Low Commission, which Colin Low chaired, has recently achieved substantial reversals of the government's proposed cuts to welfare benefits for disabled people. For many thousands it will "make a difference between existing and a life worth living".

Lord Coe is chairman of the London Olympic Committee for which he is paid over £350,000 pa. He also acts as a global adviser to NIKE and reportedly receives another £100,000 pa from AMT-Sybex, a software company whose client, Thames Water, landed an exclusive deal for the 2012 Olympics shortly after Lord Coe joined them.

Lord Coe is said to have been "instrumental in all of the commercial deals for the Olympics". Oops! One of his companies which had assets of £2.375m last year has written them off and plunged £280K in the red this year. Still, he also collected some £7,000 for Committee attendances... every little helps.

.......Nine Ladies Dancing





Hundreds of local residents' jobs, and safe working conditions for women, were saved this year when the Council did a U-Turn on its planned borough wide policy of "Nil" tolerance towards striptease venues. The Licensing Committee planned to refuse licenses to 'sex entertainment' venues borough-wide which would have criminalised erotic entertainment - striptease, burlesque, gay cabaret - and banned shops selling products which "encourage sexual activity" . The policy targeted two striptease pubs owned by women in Shoreditch.

Local council estate Tenants' Associations, Hackney Trades Unions and the Reverend Paul Turp of Shoreditch Church, feared the return of underground illegal venues, exploitation of women and gangsterism. A successful community campaign, in which 75% of consultees in Shoreditch opposed the "Nil" policy, resulted in the Council making a policy exception and renewing the licenses in Shoreditch this year.

You can find out more about the campaign by watching this short film "Hands Off" in which dancers, costumiers, business owners, the Vicar of St Leonards Church and others all have their say.

Tower Hamlets is currently considering a borough wide "Nil" policy.

........Eight days a week


The Eastern Curve Garden has been so busy it fitted eight days of activities into each seven day week. And it's been so successful it has won the national Landscape Institute President's Award. There has been pumpkin carving, African Tango, lantern making, pizza baking, healthy herbs, grizzley gargoyles, harvest festival, giant crystal light orbs, big banquets, film making, art teaching, garden dens, summer days, brazilian nights, theatre shows, afternoon teas, fundraising, furniture making, terrific totems, story telling, real nappies, scary scarecrows, carnival arts and bar-b-ques.

And that's not even mentioning the gardening activities (see photo) and the next project to build a pineapple hot house (you can help by donating). The events list at Eastern Curve Garden is never ending. Lets hope it never ends. (Watch this space. Carefully! Ed.)

.......Seven years for looting



The courts sat day and night to deliver swift and severe punishments to rioters and looters. Some Hackney residents got long jail sentences, particularly the one who smashed up a police car.

Pauline Pearce was discovered when this internet film of her, the Hackney Heroine of Clarence Road calling for social solidarity, went viral with over two million hits. She was feted by the media and leading politicians. Later she was set up for a journalists' sting but she has bounced back. Some independent businesses fought off the looters but others were devastated by the riots until the local community rallied round and helped them back to their feet. Meanwhile the government delays paying out the riot compensation payments which are legally due.

The politicians said the rioting was 'pure criminality' - so nothing to do then with this or this or this or this or this

.......Six blackened buildings

In previous years they burned down old buildings on Dalston's development sites and last year they painted our surviving Georgian houses black - a somber reminder of the charred remains or a dark vision of more funeral pyres to come? Last year, after four fires, three demolitions and OPEN Dalston's long campaign, Hackney finally bought the terraces back from the off-shore slum landlord (For double what it had sold them to him for at the auction in 2002 - Ed).

Now, in the age of austerity when money is scarce, and despite the Council's proposed 'conservation led ' scheme, the buildings remain derelict and the two surviving businesses are at risk.

The Council proposes to sell the terraces off to a developer and has consulted on a re-development scheme where only the facades of the buildings will be retained.

.........Five Gold Rings





Gold Dust from Mike Wells on Vimeo.
This year saw the publication of banned Hackney author Iain Sinclair's latest book "Ghost Milk". His ban from speaking on Hackney Council premises has never been lifted but he was able to present his book at Dalston's Vortex jazz club.

Some of the book focuses on the profligate failures of grand Olympic projects and highlights the extensive radioactive contamination across the London Olympic 2012 park . The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) was entrusted, as both planning authority and developer, to self-regulate the excavation, stockpiling, and burial of 7,000 tonnes of radioactive waste on the site - which it did without any prior planning permission at all!

Then there is the further environmental scandal of the 2012 Olympic's - its sponsorship by Dow Chemical, which purchased the corporate mass-poisoner Union Carbide, and which is now fighting claims for continuing fouled water and deformed babies in Bhopal, India .

What will the environmental legacy be for the future generations who will live on the 2012 site ? Consultants have advised that they shouldn't eat anything grown in their gardens.


.........Four Aces Club

OPEN Dalston member Winstan's Whitter's documentary Legacy in the dust tells the story of Dalston's legendary reggae club, its relationship with the Council and the police and how it went on to become the rave venue Labyrinth.

In 2007 the authorities demolished the club's original home in the historic Dalston Theatre buildings at 14 Dalston Lane. They crushed it, ground it up and used it in the foundations for Barratt's New Dalston tower block development of unaffordable flats.

Thus we lost our historic buildings in Dalston and the thirty year cultural legacy of our African-Carribean community. So now the authorities are calling the new tower blocks after the artists who performed in the club they demolished - Sledge Tower, Wonder House, Marley House etc. Patronising hypocrisy...or what?

Did anyone ask Stevie Wonder if he wanted a Dalston tower block named after him?

........Three French hens

The Worship of Mammon 1909 by Evelyn de Morgan - updated in the age of austerity

In the fourth year of the credit freeze, after the bubble burst and banks went bust, sustainable innovation continues in Dalston. There were three hens on the roof of FARM:Shop; Bootstrap roof's garden was harvested, eaten and then morphed into a cinema for Hackney Film Festival, its car park was transformed into a night market; Cafe Oto saw the return of the Arkestra; Arcola Theatre opened its circus tent; Kingsland Road shop windows are turning into art galleries; the perennial Vortex never fails to attract; Dalston is turning into Cupcake Alley with all the new coffee shops and Passing Clouds still grooves 'til the sun comes up.

........Two subsidies

Barratt's Dalston Square. Phase 1 on the left. Phase 2, on the Slab above the station, on the right.

This year Barratt, who are building the Dalston Square towers, succeeded where Oliver Twist failed. It got second helpings of the tasty tax- payers subsidy which it first had earlier in the year.With house builders struggling, and banks asking for 25% deposits on new build properties, the government has set aside a further £400 million to lend first time buyers towards their deposits on Barratt's and other flats. The deal initially seems attractive to borrowers (until they have to pay it back). Barratt loves it - it helps keep prices, and profit margins, high. With insufficient homes, and rents soaring, buy-to-let landlords think they have found a safe haven and taken 60% of the East London new build market.

Barratt have also been pulling strings to support the recently announced "simplification" of planning rules - the "presumption in favour of development". Hello to the Big Business Society. Goodbye bio-diversity and local character and, if you can't pay the rent or the bank, then its goodbye to you too.
Bold
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
...a retail opportunity

This year the Council approved an amended Dalston Area Action Plan.Two years ago OPEN Dalston consulted the local community and responded to Hackney's proposals for a massive residential/retail led 8-storey redevelopment of Dalston Cross shopping centre. The new DAAP is now proposing "creating the conditions for national high street stores to be attracted to the area", building two 15-story towers to dominate Kingsland Road and developing extensive "shopping circuits" which include turning the community's Eastern Curve Garden into a "green shopping mall".(Are they mad? -Ed)

Who is persuading the Council of the benefits of such schemes ? It turns out that the "Dressed in Green" tower (see photo) is being promoted by the PR company, Four Communications, which has recruited Hackney's Deputy Mayor Karen Alcock and Councillor Alan Laing (formerly a member of Barratt's PR firm Hard Hat)

"We are keen to use Alan’s extensive network of contacts within London politics" said Councillor Laing's new Managing Director whose company is also promoting the new Sainsburys planned for Stoke Newington and the controversial Stamford Hill school development

"....Towers for people who need gifts and coffee Only available from brandname shops...."
From "Regeneration Blues" by Michael Rosen



".... The latest blocks, blindly monolithic, devour pavements and abolish bus stops. They aspire to an occult geometry of capital: Queensbridge Quarter, Dalston Square. Everything is contained, separate, protected from flow and drift. No junk mail, please. No doorstep hawkers. No doorsteps. The big idea is to build in-station car parks, to control ‘pedestrian permeability’, so that clients of the transport system exit directly into a shopping mall. Where possible, a supermarket operator underwrites the whole development, erecting towers on site, so that Hackney becomes a suburb of Tesco, with streets, permanently under cosmetic revision, replaced by 24-hour aisles. Light and weather you can control. Behaviour is monitored by a discreet surveillance technology."
Iain Sinclair, London Review of Books, June 2009

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Michael Rosen and Olusola Oyeleye to perform poetry with jazz at Arcola Theatre on Sunday 11 December

The multi-talented award winning writer and theatre director Olusola Oyeleye is to star as the guest artist at Arcola Theatre's "Notes & Quotes" series this Sunday evening in Dalston.


Michael Rosen, the poet, playwright and former Children's Laureate, is also to headline at the event. Michael worked recently with the filmmaker Emma-Louise Williams to produce a film about Hackney "Under the Cranes" which has received widespread acclaim.


The evening will also feature music from the Dalston based jazz quintet The Dulce Tones and there will be improvised collaborations between the musicians and poets. The Dulce Tones will feature the trumpet and flugelhorn playing of Loz Speyer who's band Time Zone's recent Cuban influenced album "Crossing the line" has attracted critical acclaim.


The event, "Notes and Quotes", is the second in a series of poetry and jazz events and will take place at 7pm on Sunday 11 December in Arcola Theatre, Ashwin Street, Dalston E8. Tickets are available in advance and on the door.

Arcola Box Office: 020 7503 1646 and www.arcolatheatre.com

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Starbucks? Dalston's twitterarti get in a flap.

Dalston's twittering classes have gone ballistic since we posted news about a Starbucks franchise opening in Hackney Council's new Dalston Square library. We have had more hits on the OPEN Dalston blog than in any other week. Why so?




Fans of the freshly roasted bean say Starbucks' coffee is rubbish, others fear for the survival of those doughty entrepreneurs who have opened independent cafes in Dalston in recent years, others announce the arrival of gentrification and that Dalston will never be the same again, "cue funeral march " etc. One tweet asks "isn't there anything we can do to stop it?". Well yes, there is a chance to influence Dalston's future. Read on.

Last week we alerted people to the deadline for commenting on the Council's Dalston Masterplan (the DAAP) . Comments will be considered by a government Planning Inspector in due course. The Masterplan acknowledges that "the wealth of small-scale independent retailers is considered intrinsic to the community’s sense of identity" but there is a need for "balance", says the Council, by "creating the conditions for national high street stores to be attracted to the area".

Do you object to the proposed "retail led regeneration" of Dalston? Do you object to Dalston becoming a "shopping destination" for brand name shops. Will people spending money in those shops boost our local economy? Could Dalston become another non-place? Do you think there should be more intense, and high-rise, developments to help pay for the new "shopping circuits" which the Council proposes?

If you are concerned to protect Dalston's local character and identity you can, by 3rd November, send your comments on the Masterplan to the Council . Even if Hackney don't pay any attention to your views at least the Government Inspector will.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Hackney secure Starbucks branding for Dalston Square Library

After a long search, to try and attract a national coffee shop chain, Hackney have finally secured the offer of a Starbucks franchise to operate out of the new Dalston Square Library. A report to Hackney's Cabinet recommends acceptance because it " will assist in providing a sense of place for the new Dalston Town Square... and will be beneficial for local economic development."

Hackney's move follows conventional political thinking. Former Labour Minster, Margaret Hodge, was impressed by the ideas of Starbucks' UK MD Darcy Willson-Rymer, who argued that the best way to save libraries is to put coffee shops in them, as Starbucks have all over the US. Hodge cited the head of Norwich libraries as a success story. "She has reversed the national footfall trend. She said that if she's ever stuck for an idea on how to run libraries, she visits Tesco." Hackney's decision does not go as far as some, like Croydon, which considered wholesale privatisation of libraries by their sale to Starbuck's USA partners LSSI.

Looking north from Dalston Square

Hackney say that the café operator will be permitted to locate tables, chairs and umbrellas within part of the public square outside the front of the café space. Unfortunately, as Hackney's Environmental Consultants advised before Dalston Square was built, the limited sunlight and high wind speeds (the canyon effect) created by the new towerblocks will not make Dalston Square generally suitable for sitting out. Still, it'll be the place to go if you want the froth blown off your capuccino and, furthermore, Hackney is one step closer to achieving its vision.

"....Towers for people who need gifts and coffee Only available from brandname shops...."
From "Regeneration Blues" by Michael Rosen

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Council's plan for Dalston

The Council has published its new Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP). You can read it here. From now until Thursday 3 November (4pm) you can make representations to the Council on the amended DAAP. In due course your representations will be considered by a government Planning Inspector before the DAAP is formally approved. Make a difference. Speak up - don't miss the deadline!



In May 2009 OPEN Dalston organised an exhibition and public consultation in response to the Council's proposed Masterplan for Dalston. We incorporated the views expressed by local people in our submission to the Council. The Council says it listened to the community when amending its plan.

The DAAP is a lengthy (132 pages) document, lavishly illustrated with maps, charts and well worn visionary phrases which sit uncomfortably with Dalston's recent history - retaining Dalston’s unique character and heritage is a key goal; supporting community and creative infrastructure ; provision of affordable housing and workspaces; re-use of heritage buildings; nurturing Dalston's cultural, creative and community hub ; improvements to Ridley Road Market and adjacent small-scale shops....



An artists impression of a new high street entrance to Ridley Road market

The DAAP also states that the Council's own resources and land ownership is insufficient to implement the changes it wants to make to our public spaces and so these are dependant upon the financial contributions which private landowners are required to make when they are granted planning permission for development (Section 106 money). Development of 'opportunity sites' is therefore encouraged by the DAAP. Two Dalston sites are identified for major development with tall buildings.

Dressed in green, a proposed new 17-storey block at 51-57 Kingsland High Street (Peacocks store) next to the overground station. If planning permission is granted the developer will be asked to invest in re-modelling the station. The scheme is being promoted by a PR company which employs Hackney's Deputy Mayor Karen Alcock and Councillor Alan Laing."We are keen to use Alan’s extensive network of contacts within London politics" said his Managing Director

What effect will the new tower have on the setting of this most picturesque group of buildings next door to it on the high street?

The DAAP states that "redevelopment of Kingsland Shopping Centre is the key to unlocking the area’s potential" and that its site is suitable for a 15 storey residential tower. The DAAP has a vision of creating new pedestrian 'shopping circuits' around Dalston to encourage retail led regeneration of the area

The Eastern Curve garden is Dalston's only green haven in a dense urban environment.The DAAP states that the garden is only a temporary use which is awaiting re-development of the shopping centre.

The DAAP vision for the Eastern Curve Garden - re-developed as a kind of 'green shopping mall'

The DAAP promotes the 'conservation led regeneration' of Dalston Lane's Georgian terraces. The Council plans to sell all its houses to a developer, and turn the existing shopkeepers' upper floors into flats, to make the scheme pay for itself. Will the existing businesses survive?

These are just some of the proposals set out in the Dalston Area Action plan. The amended DAAP will influence decisions on planning applications until the final version is set in stone by the government Planning Inspector. Don't miss the chance to make your views known before the consultation closes on 3rd November.

To comment on the DAAP you must complete a Representation Form. They are available at your local library. Alternatively complete the online Form here or download the Form here and email it to ldf@hackney.gov.uk (putting 'Dalston Rep' on the subject line) or post it to Freepost RSLH-ARTC-GXRA, Spatial Planning, 2 Hillman Street, E8 1FB.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Lemn Sissay to star at Arcola's first poetry & jazz event on Sunday 18th September


Lemn Sissay, the internationally known and award winning poet and playright, is to star at Arcola's poetry & jazz event at 7pm on 18th September .


The event is the first of a new series called "Notes and Quotes" featuring Dalston poet, writer and broadcaster Michael Rosen with guest writers and with improvisation by the Dalston based jazz quintet The Dulce Tones.


Arcola Box Office: 020 7503 1646 and www.arcolatheatre.com

Sunday, 28 August 2011

"Gold Dust" - Iain Sinclair highlights radioactive hazards unearthed on London's 2012 Olympic site

Gold Dust from Mike Wells on Vimeo.

A collaborative performance by the author Iain Sinclair reading from his latest work ‘Ghost Milk’ and the Hackney solicitor/musician Bill Parry-Davies. This rousing performance is illustrated with photographs and video by Mike Wells and Sasha Andrews. It was created to highlight the existence of radioactive contamination on the London 2012 Olympic site

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Sledge tower. By Barratt. Did anyone ask Percy?

The latest tower block of unaffordable private flats being erected in Dalston Square is to be called Sledge Tower.

Why so?


An 1886 sketch of Dalston's Circus - the North London Colosseum and Amphitheatre

Dalston Square is built on the ruins of Dalston's 1886 circus building. By 1898 the circus had become a Victorian variety theatre. In 1920 it became the magnificent Gaumont cinema. Then in 1963 it reinvented itself again to become the landmark Club Four Aces - a legendary London club for international black music and a second home for black musicians in Dalston.

In 2007, when owned by Hackney Council , the authorities demolished the circus building, crushed it, ground it up and used it in the foundations for Barratt's New Dalston tower block development.

With the destruction of the circus we lost Dalston's grandest historic building for the performing arts, the oldest circus entrance in the country, locally listed Georgian houses - urban gems - and also the thirty year cultural legacy of Dalston's African-Caribbean community.

So the authorities decided to name the tower blocks of unaffordable private flats after the black musicians associated with the club which they demolished.

Patronising hypocrisy... or what?

Did anyone ask Percy Sledge if he wanted a tower block named after him?


Monday, 8 August 2011

One Hackney woman's view of the riots





Meanwhile in Dalston the local Turkish and Kurdish communities have been defending their businesses against looters and, if not expecting more trouble, they are ready for it anyway.


PS Since posting these films Pauline Pearce, our Hackney Heroine, has become a media sensation

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Where has all Hackney's money gone?

If you ever wondered how Hackney Council spends your money then, as you see from the Notice below, NOW is the time you can find out.

Hackney Council's Audit of accounts year ended 31 March 2011
Audit Commission Act 1998, sections 15 & 16 Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003 (as amended), regulations 13, 14 & 16

The London Borough of Hackney's accounts are subject to external audit by the Audit Commission (Philip Johnstone, District Auditor, 1st Floor, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London, SW1P 4HQ -telephone 0844 798 1212). Members of the public and local government electors have certain rights in the audit process:

  1. From 18 July 2011 to 12 August 2011 between 10 am and 4 pm, Monday to Friday, any person may inspect the accounts of the London Borough of Hackney for the year ended 31 March 2011 and certain related documents (comprising books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts) at Keltan House, 89 - 115 Mare St, London E8 4RU (telephone 020 8356 3611). They may also receive copies of the accounts and documents, although excessive copies will be charged for and an appointment may be required.
  2. From 10 am on Monday 15 August 2011, until the conclusion of the audit process, a local government elector for the area of the London Borough of Hackney, or his/her representative may ask the auditor questions about the accounts. Please contact the auditor at the address given above to make arrangements to ask any questions.
  3. From 10 am on Monday 15 August 2011 until the conclusion of the audit process, a local government elector for the area of the London Borough of Hackney, or his/her representative, may object to the London Borough of Hackney's accounts asking that the auditor issue a report in the public interest (under section 8 of the Audit Commission Act 1998) and/or apply to the court for a declaration that an item in the accounts is contrary to law (under section 17 of the Audit Commission Act 1998). Written notice of a proposed objection and the grounds on which it was made must be sent to the auditor at the address given above and copied to me at the following address: Keltan House, 89 - 115 Mare St, London E8 4RU.

The draft Statement of Accounts for submission to the auditor, can be found on Statement of Accounts page.

Ian Williams, CPFA, 30 June 2011

Thursday, 28 July 2011

More tall storeys for Dalston Square

Barratt is launching it's Phase III show flat in Dalston Square on 30 July. Flats are being marketed for sale "off plan" for the final phase of towers to be built in Dalston Square.

Starting with Sledge Tower (up to 19 storeys) there will be 5 more blocks which will be built in a line going south down Dalston Square west side.

The foundations for Sledge Tower have been laid.

Readers will recall that in the great credit freeze of 2008 Barratt's share price crashed by 90% and it laid off thousands of workers nationally. There were nightmares on Mare Street. Would they leave Dalston as half-finished concrete stumps? The deep freeze seemed all embracing.

The Worship of Mammon - from Super-Hero to Sub-Zero.

But Barrett kept building in Dalston. They've been surfing the Olympic wave - East London house prices have held up compared to the mass of unsold new homes lying empty elsewhere in England. New Dalston's Olympic Bus Stop is a project the authorities couldn't allow to fail.

Looking north from Dalston Square which has now been paved

Dalston Square progressed whilst other sites were shelved. Now Barratt are starting to return to the sites, which it had forsaken during the property crash, to complete the abandoned skeletons .

A development in Wolverhampton, abandoned by Barratt three years ago, where now they're back on site.

In the last budget the government announced the latest 'First Buy' bail out for indebted housebuilders. It would lend first time buyers half the 20% deposit interest free on new build homes and housebuilders would lend them the rest.The Dalston Square flats Barratt are now marketing will just qualify for the FirstBuy scheme - the average price of a one-bed flat is £276,000 so it squeezes under the schemes upper limit of £280,000. But first time buyers will also need £13,800 cash (5%) and an income of £60,000 pa to qualify - if not, forget it because there's no affordable housing, despite the massive public funds already invested, in the scheme.

"We had an excellent response (from housebuilders)" said the government spokesman "including from smaller local builders" but it was the top four housebuilders who 'nabbed' 50% of the £180 million FirstBuy bail out fund which the government had set aside. Barratt got £25.6million. It tasted so good Barratt's Chief Executive has even asked for second helpings. Government bail outs help keep house prices above true market levels. Who benefits?

No retailers have yet to move into Dalston Square. There are lots of empty shops elsewhere to choose from in Dalston

Barratt isn't out of the woods yet. It continues to target buy-to-let customers and is keen to point out they'll get a 6.5% return on a Dalston Square investment - asking rents for one beds are £300 per week. Just as well London is awash with rich Chinese and Russian investors who, given the desperate shortage of accommodation for local people, will be able to subsidise their investment at public expense by renting to housing benefit claimants. They can also look forward to the 2012 Olympics when rents will £0000s per week (With the sweetner of 60 hopper buses an hour running from The Slab to Stratford for the period of the games- Ed). And don't forget, if they buy two or more flats they get a special government concession on stamp duty.

Welcome to the Big (Business) Society.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

'Wild Hackney' - a Hackney Podcast radio docu-drama

Wild Hackney is yet another sonic masterpiece brought to us by Hackney Podcast. It's a radio docu-drama taking you through an imaginary landscape of the Lee Valley after the seawater has risen.

Photo by Squint/Opera

Made in response to the canal and the surrounding ancient flood plains, the piece takes as inspiration the Victorian Gothic novel After London by Richard Jefferies. Written in 1885, the book imagines London reverting to nature after a flood, with only a few survivors roaming the marshland.

Click the sidebar 'Hackney Podcast' to have listen -> ->

Using field recordings of the area, the feature moves through scenes of a future Hackney combining elements of documentary and fiction to reflect on the allure of urban ruin.

"This evocative fiction hovers over such moments in an imagined future to make haunting, magical radio" says the Guardian review.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Hackney to become nuclear free zone

The nuclear trains will stop running on the overground line through Hackney and Dalston for the period of the 2012 Olympics.

Hackney will be a nuclear free zone for the first time since the Council erected signs declaring this fact some 30 years ago.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Iain Sinclair: Futurology

If you couldn't get a ticket to hear Iain Sinclair at the Vortex last week, with Dalston musicians The Dulce Tones, you can catch him at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Wednesday 6th July .


Sinclair's latest book - Ghost Milk -Calling time on the grand project" - focuses on the river Lea valley and the 2012 Olympic site. A " scorching 400 page diatribe...a literary polemic, full of dazzling phrases and angry denunciation".

The evening includes film by Emily Richardson of Manor Gardens Allotments, blue fence images from Chris Petit, the writer and curator Gareth Evans and a jazz/voice collaboration with OPEN's founder, East London lawyer and saxophonist Bill Parry-Davies.


"We are all suckling on this new chemical, this ghost milk, this substance that buffers between the old dream of London that I have and the computer generated , perfected, hard edged dream where nothing is what it looks like"


Saturday, 18 June 2011

Banned author, Iain Sinclair, to visit Dalston's Vortex Jazz club. Tuesday 28 June at 8pm.

Iain Sinclair, the banned author,will be reading and discussing his new book "Ghost Milk" at Dalston's Vortex jazz club on Tuesday 28th June at 8pm.

As part of the Vortex Wordplay series the evening will also feature music from the Dulce Tones - the musicians who performed at OPEN Dalston's St Barnabas event last September.

You can buy tickets here for £5 in advance

Ghost milk. "What does this mean?" Sinclair is asked

"CGI smears on the blue fence" he replies. "Real juice from a virtual host. Embalming fluid. A soup of photographic negatives. Soul food for the dead. The universal element in which we sink and swim"

"You can't write about this. They'll never believe it" Anna Sinclair warns Iain, her husband.
But now he has written about it. All of it. Ghost Milk.

"A wonderful kind of alchemy is at work" J G Ballard observed in Sinclair's writing. The Sunday Times described his work as "remarkable, compelling, bristles with unexpected, frequently lurid life".

Photo copyright of Mike Wells

Hackney's ban on Sinclair was imposed in October 2008 just prior to the publication of his last book "Hackney,that rose-red empire. A confidential report"

"We should not host an event which....actively promotes an opinion which contradicts our aims and values as an organisation - in this case the 2012 games and legacy. I have discussed the PR ramifications of this with Jules Pipe [Hackney's Mayor -Ed.] and he is comfortable with this approach"
Polly Rance, Head of Media, Hackney Council

Photo copyright of Alan Denney

The Council's invitation to Sinclair to speak in Stoke Newington was withdrawn even before the book had been read.
"Now I was one of them, promoted to the status of non-person" writes Sinclair in Ghost Milk. "I took it as a tribute, after all this time, to be thought worthy of being invited to leave the premises....My docu-novel closed with the erection of the blue fence around the Olympic Park...".
Burrowing under the perimeter fence of the grandest of Grand Projects - the giant myth that is the 2012's London Olympics - Ghost Milk finds a landscape under sentance of death...
"Sinclair's most powerful statement yet on the throwaway impermanence of the present."

Photo copyright of Mike Wells - 2.5 million cu metres of spoil, including radioactive material, is moved around the 2012 Olympic siteSinclair's Acknowledgements in Ghost Milk includes a final dedication to Hackney's Mayor Jules Pipe "...a constant inspiration as he remakes the borough of Hackney as a model surrealist wonderland".