Friday 3 May 2024

This Sunday May 5th watch "Legacy In the Dust: The Four Aces Story" - a film screening at the Rio Cinema in Dalston at 2.15 - 4.45pm.

"Legacy In the Dust: The Four Aces Story" is a rarely screened but fascinating and authentic account of Dalston Lane's legendary Four Aces reggae club. Another great film by Winstan Whittar. The timing of this screening could not be more poignant following the funeral of Newton Dunbar last Tuesday in the 'Cathedral of the East End' - St Mark's church, Dalston. Newton was the club's founder and its sole proprietor from 1966 until 1999. He features strongly in the film.

Legacy In The Dust: The Four Aces Story TRAILER from Winstan Whitter Filmmaker on Vimeo.

Rio Film Tickets link:

For over 30 years the Four Aces had showcased international stars of black music in Dalston's historic Victorian circus and theatre buildings. But, as redevelopment plans for the site emerged, the slates above Newton's flat and the theatre's roof coverings were removed. The club was evicted in 1999 by compulsory purchase but Hackney Council and TfL's deal for their the town centre scheme fell through.

The buildings then became increasingly derelict. There was community outcry against the destruction of our local cultural and architectural legacy. Newton Dunbar was a key witness in OPENDalston's Court proceedings, against Hackney Council and the GLA's London Development Agency, opposing its replacement by the Dalston Square scheme, but the buildings were eventually demolished in 2007


The eventual redevelopment of Dalston Square involved the scandalously expensive and publicly subsidised £63million concrete Slab  spanning over the railway cutting. There was almost complete absence of "genuinely affordable" housing - despite all the land being in public ownership. (Sounds familiar? Ed.)

In recent years the development has been characterised by shops which have never been occupied and  being endlessly shrouded in scaffolding for the replacement of cladding and other works due to sub-standard construction. (or, as Hackney and TfL had promised at the time, a development "of the highest architectural quality")

But the memory of Dalston's rich African Caribbean, and especially Jamaican, cultural legacy lives on in Winstan's film, in the Peace Mural, in Sir Collins emerging archive and, we hope, in some memorial artworks to be sited in Dalston Square's Blues Street ( Presently being discussed with Hackney Council Ed.)

Wednesday 10 April 2024

RIP Newton Dunbar

Many will know and remember Newton as the founder in 1966 and, for the following 33 years, the proprietor of the legendary club Four Aces at 12 Dalston Lane. The club became one of the first venues to promote black music in the United Kingdom. It was credited with playing a significant role in the evolution of Reggae, from Ska, to Rocksteady, to Dub, to Lovers, to Dancehall and so on into the early evolution of Jungle and DnB.

Many acts from JA made their U.K debut there, among them Desmond Dekker, Jimmy Cliff, Alton Ellis, Prince Buster etc, as well as many U.S soul Giants including Jimmy Ruffin, Ann Peebles, Percy Sledge and so forth - not taking into account his support and promotion of the fledgling U.K Sound systems, Count Shelly/Sir Coxsone/Jah Shaka and countless others.

 "Save our heritage"

We remember also Newton for his important contribution in the battle to try and save Dalston's legacy as a centre for black music and the heritage buildings in which the Four Aces Club had its home. Newton features in Winstan Whitter's film "Save our heritage" which tells that story.

Newton always worked hard towards and supported the promotion of creative positivity and in the course of his lifetime achieved SO much. So now with his passing let's see if we can give the gentleman the kind of send-off he deserves and at the same time see if we can't persuade Hackney Council to finally remember and honour exactly the kind of Musical Pioneer who did so much towards making this Borough the "Cultural Hot-spot" it likes to view itself as nowadays.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Who tore down #SaveRidleyRoad's public art work "Timeline of Resistance"?

#SaveRidleyRoad's public art work "Timeline of Resistance" was produced as part of the E8 Art and Craft Trail when local artists and makers exhibit work in their studios and publicly.  "Timeline of Resistanceextended over 6 metres, with original graphics, photos, text and a planned design. It was a collaborative work, curated and assembled by hands. It told a local community's story (Probably a global one too Ed.) of the last five years resisting evictions of traders and artists, the development of luxury flats and the gentrification of the Ridley Road Shopping Village indoor market. A film has been made of the public art works' creation. Here is the film's trailer:

The "Timeline of Resistancehad been exhibited along the builder's hoardings, fronting the Ridley Road Shopping Village which is still undergoing refurbishment by its off-shore owner Larochette. 

At 5am on Friday 8th December, #SaveRidleyRoad's public art work was torn down and removed in a van marked Hackney Cleansing. It is believed to have been taken away to be burned in Edmonton's Incinerator. ( I never even knew Hackney had a Cultural Cleansing team! Ed). 

An official request has been made, by Dalston's Green party Councillor Zoe Garbett, for the Council to explain who took the decision to tear down the art work, and why? It is now the subject of a formal Council investigation.

Hackney says that it has so far spent over £130,000 subsidising its Shopping Village 'project'. It has employed additional staff and produced a booklet of 250 regulations to control future trading. ( Before its even acquired the property! Ed.) But there has been very little, if any, visible benefit from the money for the traders themselves. The traders have made the 5 demands shown in this blog post.

Hackney decided back in January 2022 that it would take a long lease of the Shopping Village once Larochette's refurbishments are completed. It will in due course be paying lease rents of around £500K including VAT to the owner which is based in the British Virgin Islands secretive tax haven. It has now emerged that Hackney intends to run the Shopping Village for profit, in line with its commercial properties. 

Following a community application, in December 2019 Hackney designated the Shopping Village as an Asset of Community Value, in part because of its cultural uses by creative businesses on the upper floors.  But in February 2022, when refurbishment work began,  the 60 artists were evicted. Now, Hackney has negotiated to take a lot of the upper floor studio space for its own Market Services offices.  There will be much less, if any, affordable space left for cultural uses and artists in the future.  The Asset of Community Value will have been substantially damaged by the Council's own financial interests.

NEWSFLASH :  The Council has said it will be consulting on its latest "Markets Strategy 2023-2028" to start running all of Hackney's street markets for profit under the Food Act.  (See Market Strategy paragraph 6.5 here Ed.). If the "for profit" policy is passed not only will the market become less affordable but all street market stallholders will lose their existing legal rights to be consulted, to challenge excessive fees and charges, and to appeal against unfair treatment to an independent Magistrates Court. Hackney will become the sole Judge, Jury and Executioner of Hackney's markets and its stallholders.

Saturday 25 November 2023

E8 Arts and Crafts trail and Afterparty

Next weekend Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd December from 11am until 5pm, Dalston (and Hackney) artists are throwing open their studio doors to the public. You can see who's exhibiting, and find an interactive map to guide you on your cultural safari, on the trail's website here.  

Also on Sunday 5-10pm will be your last chance to see the "Public Art Wall and Resistance Timeline", and two films telling the stories of market traders resisting gentrification (and a Q&A with the film makers) as part of an Afterparty at the Market Bar, 49 Ridley Road. Everyone is welcome!

There will be a huge array of work exhibited - fine art, prints, ceramics, textiles, jewellery, woodwork - and you can chat to the local makers and buy at studio prices (Just in time for Christmas! Ed). 

Saturday 22 July 2023

Hackney is consulting on 'privatising' its street markets

Hackney is consulting on whether to move from its present "not for profit" management of its street markets to "for profit" management. The proposal is contained in section 6.5 "Review of traders fees and charges" of its draft Markets and Street Trading Strategy 2023-2018 . The Council's Cabinet Member, Councillor Susan Fajana-Thomas, states in her introduction that the Strategy will "help us to maximise and capitalise on the many commercial opportunities available to us". You can comment on the Strategy here

To date Hackney has managed Ridley Road and its other markets under the London Local Authorities Act 1990. This provides that the Council's fees and charges paid by traders are restricted to its reasonable administrative and other costs incurred in managing the market eg for issuing and enforcing licences, street cleaning, waste disposal etc. The Act also confers rights on traders - including consultation on licence terms and conditions, rights to succession by family members and to appeal to an independent Magistrates Court against unfair treatment.

Hackney is now considering running its markets under the Food Act 1984 which will remove the restrictions on what it can charge traders and abolish their statutory rights. In other words it can run its markets for profit on whatever licence terms it chooses to offer traders and, if there is a dispute and with no longer a right of an independent appeal, Hackney will become judge jury and executioner in its own cause. It seeks to justify these changes by stating that the existing legal requirements are "quite restrictive"and "not representative of trading in present times" and that the Food Act 1984 will provide the Council with" much more flexibility". ( These explanations by Council officers are wholly self-serving Ed.)

These are not the only changes the Council is proposing to increase its income from Hackney's markets to "secure the financial sustainability of the service". For example, it proposes introducing fixed penalty notices if stallholders breach any of the 250 regulations which were imposed on them in 2019 ( See "A licence for slavery") , to charge them "pay as you go" for electricity (presently covered by their licence fees) and to increase the number of shopkeepers paying shop-front trading licence fees

The Council's plans for its street markets have been foreshadowed by its scheme for management of Ridley Road's indoor market - the "Shopping Village". Hackney Mayor's report in January 2023 explained that management under the Food Act 1984 would provide "an opportunity to generate surplus income to the Council from rents and fees", that it has "no requirement for consultation or public approval on rentals" and that enforcement action against traders "doesn't end up with the Council facing an expensive visit to the magistrates court". The Council has stated that Shopping Village licence fees will rise by 80% in the third year after Hackney takes on a lease of the Shopping Village building.

There are of course plenty of fine words and lofty aspirations in the Council's draft Markets and Street Trading Strategy 2023-28, but the devil is in the detail. Management of Hackney's street markets under Food Act licences will remove Market Services incentives to act prudently and fairly. If the right of the market trader to appeal to an independent Court is removed, traders’ livelihoods will become dependent upon their relationships with individual Council officers which opens the possibility of both arbitrariness, unfairness and favouritism and potentially to allegations of perceived or actual corrupt relationships which would be detrimental to Market Service’s staff, to traders and to the Council’s reputation This would be a very regressive step and render the market as a less attractive workplace for existing and new traders

(PS: If you feel you've heard all this before, you probably have. Saving Ridley Road market as the home of the bargain is a constant battle waged by our community against profiteering developers and Council bureaucrats. See the 2008 post "Hackney beancounters go bananas in Ridley Road market" here. Ed.)

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Community defeats developers again - sunlight saved for Dalston nursery school children

The volume and quality of 100 objections from the local community has, for the third time, led to the refusal of a planning application to build a three storey 9 metre high block across the southern boundary of Colvestone Primary School's nursery playground.

The Council grounds for refusal were the same as the main grounds of OPEN Dalston's and many other objections - overshadowing, overbearance and construction chaos. Unusually, the Mayor of Hackney also wrote a detailed objection which concluded " I am happy to be very publicly on record in my tenacious and heart-felt opposition to badly thought-through proposals of this nature that are of purely commercial value..."

On 31 January the Council made its decision to refuse the developer's application. It stated its reasons for refusal as follows:  

"1. The proposal, by reason of its height and location due south of the outdoor learning space of Colvestone Crescent Primary School would result in undue loss of light and loss of outlook/increased sense of enclosure to that outdoor area, to the detriment of the utility of the space and the learning experience that it offered....

2. The proposal by reason of its location immediately outside the trading area of Ridley Road market, and the lack of  identified suitable access for construction vehicles and submission of a framework Construction Management and Logistics plan, would obstruct and restrict the operation of the market to the detriment of the vitality of Ridley Road market and the Town Centre..."

The developer could now appeal to the government planning inspector - although its appeal to allow an earlier similar scheme had already be refused by the Inspector 12 months ago. Alternatively it could submit a less overbearing scheme or consider serving a notice on the Council requiring it to purchase the land. 

Let's hope that the Council can ensure that there will an appropriate use for the site which will avoid further energy and expense for the community and the Council in opposing unsuitable schemes.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Monstrous imposition returns to threaten Dalston toddlers' playground

For the third time, Colvestone Crescent Grade II listed Primary School's outdoor classroom, and future generations of nursery children, are once again under threat. The adjoining owner has re-applied for planning permission  to block out their sunlight and sky with a three storey 9 metre hight development extending right across the southern boundary of the school's outdoor learning space. The owner's previous application, of the same design, had been refused last year by a Government Planning Inspector on an appeal. Hackney, which had failed to make a decision on the application,  told the Inspector it would have refused the Planning application. 

The new planning application was registered by Hackney planners on 6th December. Our local Green councillor, Zoe Garbett, has been told that any objections must be made by 9th January for an officers' decision to be made on or after 31 January.

This is Colvestone Primary School's outdoor learning space, on the junction with Ridley Road market. The triangular development site is on the left along the southern boundary.

This developer's model shows the planned three storey building's
 relationship with the school's outdoor learning space

The new development will blight future generations of our nursery toddlers. The outdoor nursery space will have a 9 metre blank brick wall towering over them and blocking out the sky all across its southern boundary You can read the application documents and make representations here. You don't need to give detailed reasons ("I object" is good. Ed.).  But if you have time to give reasons, these OPEN Dalston objections will help you identify the issues. 

Numbers count. If there are many objections the application is more likely to be decided by the elected Planning Committee members themselves, rather than just Council officials. 

If you're late, or the Council's on-line consultation is down, then just send your comments by  email to quoting Ref: 2022/2952 in the subject line.

The developer says that the scheme design is materially the same as the scheme which was rejected by a Government Planning Inspector in 2022. He had commented that "children's playgrounds have a particularly strong requirement for sunlight" and that the amount of sunlight lost would have "a significant adverse effect on the enjoyment of users of the outdoor learning space with particular regard to sunlight".

The developer has now presented more detailed overshadowing illustrations. These show, for example, that on 21 March ( Spring Solstice - the day representing the annual average overshadowing ) "A large area of shadow will cross the playground between midday and 2pm" but then advises that "In reality, the impact will be less significant than that shown due to the likelihood of cloud cover in March." ( 😂 😂 The BRE official Guidelines on Sunlight Planning make no reference to relying on weather forecasting! Ed.) 

This graphic is of the developer's computer modelling of 11am to 2pm on 21 March, showing the encroaching shadow in purple. Shadow won't leave the space until about 3pm.

PS The only reason I can think of, for not developing a more appropriate building on the site, is this 👇 Ed.   

Background story

Dalston has successfully battled two previous schemes. In 2016 our community champion Judith Watt overturned planning permission in judicial review proceedings on the basis that the Planning Committee had been mislead by the developers incorrect overshadowing calculations. 

The community's Friends of Ridley Road applied successfully in 2021 to have the school's open space declared an "Asset of Community Value" because if its importance to social well being and community interests.

Then in 2022 a government planning inspector refused an appeal by a new developer. The Inspector nailed it when commenting that "there would be a reduction in sunlight, which would be likely to make use of the outdoor learning space less attractive and therefore result in this valued area being lesser used."