Thursday 17 December 2009

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

Twelve legends dining
This image shows some of the stars who were associated with the now demolished 1886 Dalston Theatre buildings. They include Sir Robert Fossett (circus owner), Marie Lloyd (international music hall star), Stevie Wonder, Desmond Decker, Bob Marley, the Sex Pistols and The Prodigy. You can read the story that was never told here. Hackney Council demolished the historic buildings in 2007 to make way for New Dalston's tower blocks, brand name shops and a £40 million bus station on The Slab, which are now under construction.

Eleven pipers piping Having agreed to the GLAs demands that it help finance The Slab, and with road closures and 20 more of Dalston's buildings demolished to renew the train tunnel leading to Highbury, this year Members of Mayor Pipe's Cabinet approved the purchase of two development sites on the north side of Dalston Lane, in Ashwin street, as a "natural progession of the Dalston Square development". Following lobbying by OPEN Dalston and others, the Mayor's Cabinet has agreed to a survey of the Ashwin Street houses to see if, despite decades of neglect, they are fit for refurbishment. Perhaps Ashwin Street will become part of Dalston's cultural hub.

Ten floors and risingThe Worship of Mammon 1909 by Evelyn de Morgan, updated 2009 by
There were worries that Barratt's development of 10 to 20 storey residential towers on Hackney Council's Dalston Square site, where Dalston's historic buildings once stood, would be left as concrete stumps. Like all developers it had been hit hard by the credit freeze. With increased government subsidy, buy-to-let sales abroad and drip feeding the market, debt laden Barratt clung on and survived the year despite all the bad news. But there's no sign yet of a start on Phase 2 - further 10-20 storey towers on The Slab above TfL's Dalston Junction station - which was supposed to start last October.

Nine members voting 70 family homes and an £11million contribution towards affordable housing, intended for Dalston, are what desperate for cash Hackney Council gave up in its rush to grant planning permission for a 52-storey development in Shoreditch. Mega-developer Hammerson had agreed to buy Hackney's Shoreditch site for millions if it could build Foster designed tombstone scheme on it. Boris' GLA and New Labour's Secretary of State all agreed to ditch their affordable and family homes policies when approving Hackney's decision. Ads have since appeared for empty homes up north to help Hackney's 20,000 overcrowded and homeless off the Council's waiting list and on their way.

Eight years of fightingSpirit's eight year fight for justice had a further set back when a county court judge dismissed his claim for compensation against Hackney after it had sold his shop at auction in 2001 to an absentee landlord for less than Spirit had offered to pay."He was plainly proud of the business which he had built up since 1993. It is sad that this was taken from him "said the Judge "It is unfortunate that these offshore companies are purchasing properties and are able to avoid the same fees and taxes which others would have to pay". Last November we saw Court Bailiffs abandon plans to take possession of Spirit's home and shop after a rally of local people gathered on Broadway Market to show their support for one of the street's best loved characters. Shortly afterwards, to avoid confrontation, Spirit gave up his keys to his landlord. Spirit has lodged an appeal against the Court's judgment.

Seven blackened buildingsIn previous years they would burn down old buildings on Dalston's development sites, but this year they painted them black. A somber reminder of charred remains.... or a dark vision of more funeral pyres to come? Banksey's street art in Hackney shared a similar fate. The authorities developed the redaction technique further to deal with public interest in MPs expense sheets.

Six heart breakers

Five gold rings

In October OPEN learned of the extensive radioactive contamination uncovered across the London Olympic 2012 site during 2.5 million cu. metres of earthmoving and landscaping works. The regulatory authorities - the Environment Agency and local Council's - have left it to the Olympic Delivery Authority to manage the risks by means of planning permission conditions But extensive stockpiling and burials of radioactive materials have been carried out without any planning permission at all. OPEN called for an independent report - and the expert's conclusions now received are shocking. We hope that all will be revealed this forthcoming year.

Four Aces Club 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, how it went on to become the Labyrinth and the eventual demolition of its home in Dalston's historic buildings. You can hear Winstan talk about the history on Hackney Podcast. The film was most recently shown as part of the events at the Dalston Mill. Newton Dunbar's Four Aces Club was revisited in a recent press review.

Three charges dropped
Hackney Council announced, following government intervention, that it was dropping the outstanding prosecutions of Ridley Market stallholder Janet Devers for selling in pounds and ounces and by the bowl. Janet, with other metric martyrs, is now petitioning for a pardon following convictions for earlier offenses. Ridley Road traders are still fighting for survival in the depths of recession. But Hackney have now restored lighting to the stalls and approved the traders proposals for market refurbishment which they hope will start before next spring. Watch the video - Neneh Cherry and Andi Oliver buy some bunches of callaloo from Janet in Ridley Road Market, the home of the bargain (and lets keep it that way)!

Two writers speak

On Dalston Lane time itself seems to lie around in broken fragments....” was the title of an OPEN event in March when, despite being banned from speaking on Council premises, Iain Sinclair joined cultural historian and writer Patrick Wright to speak to a packed house at Cafe Oto. We were also honoured to have Lord Low of Dalston, Chairman of the RNIB and OPEN's patron, address us. The evening included 1969 Hackney film footage from Iain's archives and you can see his latest Guardian film here which describes Dalston and Hackney as its was and how it has become. The intrepid journalists of Hackney Citizen and Games Moniter meanwhile uncovered evidence of political censorship with Orwellian implications. The quirky Dalston Lane terrace, which Patrick Wright wrote of in his republished novel, now lies in ruins.

And a retail opportunity
Image gimped by
OPEN Dalston consulted the local community about Hackney's proposals for a massive residential/retail led 8-storey redevelopment of Dalston Cross shopping centre. But although the credit freeze poured cold water on Hackney's aspirations, Tesco progressed its plans for twin 12-storey residential towers on top of a new redeveloped Tesco superstore in Morning Lane which will overshadow St John in Hackney churchyard gardens and Hackney's oldest monument, St Augustine's tower.

"....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

An artists impression of Phase 2 of TfLs Dalston Square development - flats for sale, brand name shops and no affordable housing planned. And all to pay for somewhere Tfl can turn its buses around - on The Slab .