Sunday 28 September 2008

Spirit of Broadway Market

The Nutritious Food Galley in Broadway Market was built by Spirit from a derelict shop 15 years ago. It has since been his home and his business. He has worked hard with others to create a thriving market.

But in 2001 Hackney Council was facing bankruptcy and auctioning off all saleable assets. Out of the blue Spirit received a letter saying that, unless within 4 weeks he purchased the property for £100,000, it would be auctioned.

Yet despite paying the £10,000 deposit, and signing a contract, the property was sold at auction for £85,000 to an offshore company. Spirit's cheque was returned without explanation.

Some time after the auction the new landlords took steps under the lease to increase the rent - by 800% - which they then backdated. In October 2005 a Court possession order was made for rent arrears and £7,000 legal costs. Spirit appealed and further costs of £5,000 were incurred. Spirit was without legal representation at these Court hearings. Eventually the Court of Appeal upheld the possession order and the landlords have now issued a warrant for possession.

Over the last three years Spirit has managed to pay off over £50,000 in rent and arrears and is now completely up to date. But the landlord is now evicting him for the outstanding £7,000 legal costs and is also sending bailiff's to seize goods to satisfy the further £5,000 legal costs. Spirit's plea to the Court for further time to pay was finally rejected last week.

Spirit has made the following statement.

"I am deeply distressed at the way I have been treated by Hackney Council and my current landlords.

When I first came to Broadway Market the area was affected by widespread dereliction, and 71 Broadway Market was just a shell.

I worked hard to restore the building and to start my business, and I contributed to the improvement of the area in general.

My shop is the only one on Broadway Market representing and servicing the day-to-day needs of the Caribbean community by way of fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and West Indian produce, and I also have many other local customers who enjoy my food.

Prices have gone up very much in this area, but I have kept my prices low so my customers can continue to afford to eat fresh, healthy food.

It is a bitter irony that Hackney Council denied me the right to buy my property after contributing so much to Broadway Market and the local community while they allow someone who I believe is a speculator to profit from all the improvements I've made.

Why does the Council not recognise the people who invest into their local area from inside the community - why do they let outsiders take their livelihood from them and chance the character of the community?

I've been working all my life, 6-7 days a week, sometimes 16 hours a day, and I thought that by having a business I would provide a good role model for the youth in this area, and provide for the future of my family, but the message everyone has been getting - and I've been undergoing this plight for 7 years now - is not a positive one.
It doesn't surprise me that I'm having the support of the entire local community, who want me to keep my shop and home, because of the character of the business I have portrayed in this statement."

OPEN has reported the consequences of similar Council auction sales of a historic terrace in Dalston Lane, also sold to an off-shore company having the same managing agent, and the threat to local family businesses of predatory developers and "regeneration" schemes.

If you feel you can help, follow this link

Friday 5 September 2008

Legacy in the dust - the film about Dalston's Four Aces Club

At 7.30pm on Friday 19 September at Cafe Oto, Ashwin Street, E8 you have the chance to watch "Legacy In The Dust" (click on Trailer). Dalston legend Newton Dunbar, who ran the Fours Aces club for 33 years, and Dalston's brilliant young film maker Winstan Whitter will be there too for a Q&A session. And there'll be a mega music session to follow starting at 10.30pm featuring Winston Reedy, Delroy Pinnock and Freetown plus surprise guests.The details are here and more here.

The Four Aces Club had a controversial history. In one period of frequent raids the Metropolitan Police, with the Daily Mail in tow, sought to vilify the Club (the headlines screamed about drug dens, Yardies etc). But, whilst the authorities sought to expel black music from Dalston, dozens of police officers were transferred away from Stoke Newington Police Station amid allegations that some were dealing crack cocaine on Dalston's "front line" - Sandringham Road, E8. Police officers were convicted in the criminal courts but Newton Dunbar's reputation was, and remains, unblemished.

Newton triumphed in the face of adversity and harassment until the Council's compulsory purchase orders finally claimed Dalston's historic buildings for redevelopment purposes in 1999. They remained derelict and on death row until finally demolished in 2007.

The first act of demolition occurred suddenly when Hackney cut down the trees which Newton and Charles Collins had planted in the Club's garden to commemorate the young people who had perished in the New Cross fire - widely believed to have been a racist arson attack.

The demolitions proceeded without any opportunity for the community to celebrate the 120 years of service to popular culture and performing arts which the historic buildings had performed. The buildings had reinvented themselves over the years to meet the public's changing demands - from the times of Sir Robert Fossett's circus in 1886, through the period as a Victorian variety theatre with Hackney's own international star of the music hall Marie Lloyd, then its makeover and re-opening by Hackney's Mayor Herbert Morrison in 1920 as "the greatest cinema in the Britsh Empire", then in the 1960s & '70s as a home for international stars of black music and finally giving birth to the drum 'n bass & acid-house as part of the rave scene of the 1990s.

click image to enlarge

Newton worked with OPEN to challenge Hackney Council's moves to demolish Dalston's character and history and replace it with towerblocks. He filed an affidavit in OPEN's High Court proceedings describing the history of the Club, the eviction of the community from the buildings and, with historic photographs, how part of the roofs of the Theatre building were removed contributing to the destruction by rainwater of Dalston's jewel in the crown - the magnificent 1920's interiors of what had become known as the Labyrinth.

Winstan Whitter's documentary film details the history of the buildings and the Four Aces Club, its people, its music and Newton's 33 years as its Director. Not to be missed.


How did it happen? A ten year plan to destroy 185 years of culture."The story that was never told"