Wednesday 25 June 2008

The Four Aces Club - a legacy in the dust

click image to enlarge

For over thirty years Dalston resident Newton Dunbar ran The Four Aces Club . The Club started its life in 1966 at 12 Dalston Lane in the entrance halls of the original 1886 Dalston circus and theatre buildings. It became north London's home of international black music and a second home to black musicians. With increasing success in the 1980s Newton expanded the business, as the Labrynth, which regularly packed out the whole of Dalston Theatre. At weekends Dalston Lane was heaving until the early hours.

Filmaker Winstan Whitter grew up in Dalston and his brilliant documentary film, containing historic footage, about The Four Aces is now out. You can visit here to watch the film's trailer and learn more about the history of the club and its relationship with the police and the Council.

The film will be shown on Sunday 6 July at 1pm as part of the V&A's Motown Weekender. More details here

Winstan (centre) at an OPEN Dalston community day

Winstan campaigned with OPEN to save something of Dalston's history and cultural diversity. The historic buildings were landmarks in our lives and in the lives of previous generations. But despite providing popular entertainment for over 100 years the Council said the buildings had no historic value. Despite a petition with 25,000 signatures roofs were removed, The Four Aces Club was evicted and the buildings were left on death row to become derelict and blight the environment. Sadly they have now been demolished by the authorities to make way for towerblock flats.

How did it happen? A ten year plan to destroy 185 years of culture.

Read "The story that was never told"

Friday 13 June 2008

Barratt Barratt Barratt. Going Going .......

More bad news for Dalston about Barratt. And yet more here
But it aint over yet - unless, of course, you're one of the many homeless or living in desperately overcrowded conditions:
".....The upshot is that there is going to be a huge shortfall in the number of new homes being built this year. In 2007, there were 190,000 homes built in England, according to the Home Builders Federation (HBF), a trade body. Estimates suggest that the figure for 2008 will be half that number and a long way short of the government’s target of 140,000 new homes erected every year until 2016..."

Thursday 12 June 2008

Dalston's towerblock deal is looking wobbly

There is more news this week of the crises hitting the major companies involved in the housebuilding industry. Its shareholders are losing confidence and there is worrying news that Barratt's share price has crashed. Following a deal between the Hackney Council and the Greater London Authority, Barratt has commenced building 550 towerblock flats for sale in Dalston. Although the precise terms of the deal with Barratt are the subject of commercial confidentiality, reports to Hackney Council's Cabinet indicated that Council taxpayers would take some of the financial risk on the project. With the slowdown in the housing market the prospect of the Council getting our money back appears to be diminishing.

Sunday 1 June 2008

Hackney's Mayor Pipe smears children's laureate

Hackney Mayor Pipe’s public smear of the distinguished local writer and broadcaster Michael Rosen, for criticising the way Dalston is being redeveloped, is symptomatic of the Council’s deafness, even intolerance, of any views but its own. You can read the story here and here.

Mayor Pipe may well feel a warm glow of satisfaction and self-belief as he surveys his multi-million pound Hackney Town Hall Square. But from his offices he also sees the grand old Central Library which has been gutted and regenerated as the £30 million Ocean. Sadly it has since been closed for longer than it has been opened. Perhaps he can now feel proud that the Clissold Leisure Centre, following a £40 million overspend, has finally reopened .

Unfortunately Mayor Pipe has lavished no such care and expense on Dalston. Indeed, to help pay for these £70million “flagship” extravagances our desperate for cash Council auctioned off its once thriving Georgian terraces to absentee landlords, over the heads of its Council lessees. In Dalston we have since witnessed evictions, arson attacks and total dereliction.

OPEN has previously written here about the history. OPEN has campaigned for the compulsory purchase of the houses and for the Council to sell them on with conditions for refurbishment. We are told its Cabinet will finally consider this proposal in July. But the only outcome so far of the Council’s too little, too late “conservation led regeneration” policies has been the costly demolition of three more Georgian houses in Dalston Lane paid for from the public purse. Just what the landlord wanted.

But that is not an isolated example of Hackney’s municipal vandalism. Just up the road at Dalston Junction we had a similar story – the removal of roofs, the eviction of thriving businesses, then years of neglect, dereliction and finally the demolition of Dalston’s historic buildings on Mayor Pipe’s orders. Orders initially given before even planning permission and Cabinet approval had been obtained (see here for the story). Under construction now are the 20-storey towerblocks needed to pay for Transport for London’s new bus turnaround which is to be built above the reopened Dalston Junction overground station.

All in the name of “best value”, “attracting a critical mass of better off people”, “regeneration” and the 2012 Olympics.

Mayor Pipe commented that the choices for Dalston were made “with the best interests of the borough at heart”. Why then are Hackney residents subsidising the £39 million concrete slab needed for Transport for London’s bus turnaround? To sweeten this pill, just before the planning application and the later Mayoral elections, the authorities trumpeted the arrival of “The Tube” for Dalston - which TfL and Mayor Pipe now admit it is not.

The deal which Mayor Pipe and his officers negotiated for Dalston was so unfavourable that he had to obtain the Secretary of State’s approval to dispose of the Council’s site at undervalue.

Had “best value” been obtained we might instead have seen 258 (50%) not 58 new homes affordable to local people; quality buildings of appropriate scale rather than children living up to the 20th storey in towers blotting out the sunlight; some affordable space not just chain stores which take their profits elsewhere and drive up local rents. We might have seen some of Dalston’s character and diverse cultural history retained rather than a cloned shopping mall.

We could have seen local people involved and committed to the change instead, as is so often the case, feeling alienated, powerless and resentful. Michael Rosen’s anger at the authorities’ treatment of Dalston is shared by very many local people of all political, economic, ethnic and social groupings. For Mayor Pipe to describe those who disagree with him, by calling them the “Keep Hackney Crap” brigade, is a crude smear.