Wednesday 8 December 2010

The twelve days of Christmas....

Twelve legends dining

This image, by Brian Cumming, shows some of the stars of popular entertainment who were associated with the now demolished 1886 Dalston 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), Desmond Dekker (played there in 1969 - with the first UK reggae hit 'The Israelites'), Bob Marley (ate curry goat there), The Prodigy (began their career there) and the Sex Pistols. You can read about the demolition of old Dalston in the story that was never told here. Hackney Council demolished the historic buildings in 2007 to help fund New Dalston's tower blocks, brand name shops and a bus station on The Slab in Dalston.

Eleven pipers piping

Last year Hackney Mayor Pipe's Cabinet approved the purchase of two development sites on the north side of Dalston Lane, in Ashwin Street. The Cabinet report referred ominously to a "natural progression of the Dalston Square development". OPEN Dalston with others secured the Hackney Mayor's agreement to survey the old Ashwin Street houses, one of which had been fire damaged. But then, without any assessment of whether the houses could be made safe, and without the requisite planning approval, Hackney demolished the four old houses this year (Ahem...nothing natural about that then - Ed).

"You know what?... We could demolish the lot." ...from Michael Rosen's Regeneration Blues

Ten Lords a leaping

Construction by Barratt of Dalston Square Phase 2 began this year.Their Lordships of the Court of Appeal upheld Wakefield District Council's policy that 30% of all new homes built locally by Barratt should be affordable. But in Dalston, despite their policy targets of 50% affordable housing, Hackney Council and the Greater London Authority rolled over. Barratt will be building no affordable housing as part of the Dalston Square Phase 2 development on The Slab above Dalston Junction railway station - although £millions of public money has been spent subsidising the scheme. This year the London authorities quietly abandoned their affordable housing targets, but refused to justify their decision to the public, and Hackney's Mayor Pipe , now Chair of the London Councils, announced the departure of the poor and the "economically inactive" from the inner city of London.

Nine Ladies Dancing

In July the Council adopted new powers to enable its Licensing Committee to operate a policy of "Nil" tolerance of 'sex entertainment'. If used it will criminalise erotic entertainment - striptease, burlesque, gay cabaret and the like. The policy will target two striptease pubs owned by women in Shoreditch . But recently the local council estate tenants' associations, and the Vicar, have come out in their support, whilst condemning the numerous other late-night bars and off-licenses for the drunken ante-social behavior plaguing the area. Will women will be safer in Shoreditch if such activities are criminalised and no longer subject to Council regulation and control? Do the police have the resources to cope when the gangsters take over? What would Hoxton born Marie Lloyd have made of it all? You can find out more 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.

Eight years of fighting
This year Spirit lost his final, eight year, battle for justice in the Court of Appeal following last year defeat when a county court judge dismissed his claim for compensation . Hackney's auctioneers sold his property in 2001 to an off-shore 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". 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.

Seven pounds fifty
£7.50 was all the public were prepared to pay, at OPEN's auction, for Dalston's £63million bus stop. Construction of the new bus stop on The Slab in Dalston involved the demolition of the old Snooker Hall to create a ramp from the Slab down onto Kingsland Road. The cost of The Slab had risen from £26m to £39m to £63million - a massive, scandalously expensive and carbon heavy concrete raft built over the Dalston Junction railway cutting in 2009 which, the Secretary of State told OPEN, was necessary to site a bus/rail Interchange as "an essential part of the transport infrastructure needed for the 2012 Olympics" (Excuse me.... the buses and trains from Dalston don't actually go to Stratford - Ed). OPEN learnt this year that only one bus will in fact use The Slab (the 488 route) - not the 60 buses an hour TfL said justified the expense and the demolition of Old Dalston to pay for it. Boris' GLA then delivered a deluge of drivel to try and cover up the scandal of Dalston's £63million bus stop. But, as you can see from the photo, the bus stop remains deserted and the 488 seems to be running late.

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? This year, after four fires, three demolitions and OPEN Dalston's long campaign, Hackney finally listened to our community and bought the terrace back from the off-shore slum landlord (For double what it had sold them for at the auction in 2002 - Ed). Now, in the age of austerity when money is scarce, and despite the Council's fine words, the buildings remain derelict and at risk. There are young people occupying some of these surviving fragments of Dalston's past. They know the sad history of our local heritage. Quite why Hackney wants to evict the occupiers, who at least keep the houses wind and watertight, remains a mystery.

Five gold rings

Seb Coe denied, to the bitter end, that the 2012 London Olympic park was radioactive.
Thanks to JT for the images
Last year OPEN learned of the extensive radioactive contamination across the London Olympic 2012 site which had been dug up and spread around during 2.5 million cu. metres of earthmoving and landscaping works. The regulatory authorities - the Environment Agency and local Council's - had left it to the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to manage the risks by means of planning permission conditions. But the ODA is not just the planning authority - it is the developer of the site as well. Extensive stockpiling, and the burial on the site of 7,000 tonnes of radioactive waste, has been carried out without any prior planning permission at all. OPEN called for an independent report - and the expert's conclusions which we have seen are shocking. Finally, this year, the GLA has announced an inquiry into how this happened. What will the environmental legacy be for future generations?

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 original home in the historic Dalston Theatre buildings. The film is attracting attention and featured as part of the Reggae Rebels exhibition in Hackney Museum. And now Newton Dunbar, who ran the club for over 30 years, is back in action in Dalston with the Four Aces Club Roadshow. Oh yeah!

Three writers speak

The Worship of Mammon 1909 by Evelyn de Morgan, updated 2009 by

In the third year of the credit freeze, when the bubble burst and banks went bust, three writers spoke at an OPEN cultural/political soiree in Dalston. David Garrrard of English Heritage told us about Dalston's little know architectural gem, the 1911 Grade 2 listed St Barnabas' Church, where the event was held; Iain Sinclair read extracts from his current work & alluded to the world of virtual money and Michael Rosen performed his improvised jazz poem Regeneration Blues with local musicians The Dulce Tones. The event also featured the presentation of the Ceausescue Golden Spoon Award by Steve Butters and a speech from OPEN's Patron Lord Low of Dalston. Special thanks to Arcola Theatre for the carbon-free lighting, Rev. Giles Fouhy for hosting the event, OPEN volunteers and to the BBC World Service for giving it wider coverage.

Two spaces greened

This year we saw local community aspirations bear fruit with the landscaping and planting of the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and the Bootstrap Roof Park on top of Ashwin Street's Reeves Printhouse. In a area previously bereft, these green oasis provide places where people meet plants, places for learning, for celebrations and for solace. And we've even got a FARM in a shop in Dalston too with chickens on the roof (That's enough crowing - Ed). Also the New Year will see Arcola Theatre moving to the heart of Dalston, into the Colourworks building, bringing plans for a carbon free eco-theatre and building their national reputation from our local hub of cultural excellence in Ashwin Street.

And a retail opportunity

Image gimped by

Last year 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. Tesco's consultants swore blind that the doubling of car spaces in the new Mega-Tesco would miraculously reduce existing traffic gridlock at the Mare Street junction -but the Planning Committee saw through them, and despite its officers recommendations, rejected the scheme. So it's back to the drawing board and more schmoozing required for Tesco.

".... 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 artist's impression of Barratt's Dalston Square shopping heaven - private high-rise flats and national brand stores - all to pay for The Slab and Dalston's £63million bus stop. Click on image to enlarge.

Friday 5 November 2010

OPEN goes international with the BBC World Service!

The BBC's World Service investigative journalist, Nina Robinson, came to the OPEN event at St Barnabas Church on 16th September. She has been making a series of four programmes called " Great Expectations: Living in the shadow of London 2012". She explores local peoples' experiences of the build up to 2012 and asks the question "How will regeneration affect those who need it most?".

Nina Robinsons's fourth programme, called "Inspiring real legacy", starts with a recording of Michael Rosen performing 'Regeneration Blues' with The Dulce Tones ( click on the SideBar link to hear the full performance) at the OPEN event. About 16 minutes into the programme, she arrives in Dalston to investigate The Slab. You can listen to the BBC World Service podcast here.

Towards the end of the podcast you can hear our elected official, Councillor Nicholson, who expresses the Council's views about the benefits of The Slab.

He was the one who wrote, back in February 2006 on behalf of Hackney's Mayor, that the Dalston Square development would be "a high design development that is on a human scale". But Hackney's own Director of Regeneration said at the time that TfL's development on The Slab (Dalston Square, Phase 2) was "austere" and "a stark concrete tower with punched openings for windows". TfL's own environmental consultants advised that "all local conservation areas will be adversely affected..there will be loss of traditional and human scale...sunlighting losses will begin to occur as the development progresses...".

TfL's Dalston Square Phase 2 is now under construction on The Slab

Councillor Nicholson also wrote that the Hackney site (Dalston Square Phase 1) scheme would have "Affordable housing as close to 50% of the development that can be afforded that is mixed across the development, not just 'in a corner', and includes 30% family accommodation". But, of the 550 flats granted planning permission for both phases of the Dalston Square scheme, only 5% (28 flats) will be affordable social housing and only 4% (22 flats) would be family size homes (4 beds or over).

So you might want to bear that in mind when you listen to what Councillor Nicholson has to say to the BBC World Service podcast - Part4 "Inspiring real legacy".

Saturday 30 October 2010

On Hallowe'en Dalston was dead...but not buried.

The living dead with strangefolk, ghouls, ghosts and witches

drifted north up ancient Ermine Street (Earninga Straete)

from Hoxton Square to Dalston

to celebrate Hallowe'en in Gillett Square

and as dawn threatened their reverie

they fled away to continue the celebrations

with more dancing and feasting in Passing Clouds

Friday 22 October 2010

"Houses good. Flats bad" says Barratt (but it's too late for Dalston).

Barratt's Chief Executive Mark Clare is on a charm offensive 'We are trying to build what our customers want rather than what we thought they wanted or what the planners wanted’ explains Clare. But his comments are not purely altruistic. ‘We are also moving away from flats as fast as we can because people can’t get mortgages on them’ he adds.

Despite the thousands of overcrowded families on Hackney's waiting list it's a once in a lifetime missed opportunity for Dalston as Barratt lashes up another 9 blocks of 330 private flats for sale at Dalston Square.

Although Barratt predicts a double-dip in house prices there's no sign of it in Dalston - East London house prices have been surfing the Olympic 2012 wave. Barratt, laden with debt, needs to keep prices high and has been drip feeding supply and continuing its overseas marketing to target cash rich buy-to-let investors. As we have reported previously two thirds of homes built in London last year were reportedly sold to buy-to-let purchasers.

The government's latest spending cuts slash subsidy for affordable housing, and housing benefit, so local people now have even less chance of buying or renting an affordable home. But is Barratt's Mark Clare bovvered? He's had a £568,000 bonus this year and he's won the £1billion deal to rebuild Basildon.
The crash in land values has reportedly seen housebuilders stocking up on development sites at bargain prices - but still they argue against building affordable homes. One authority, Wakefield Council, has sucessfully fought for its 30% affordable housing targets in one new Barratt development.

But in Dalston, Hackney and the GLA rolled over. They say that, because of the eyewatering sums of public money they have already spent 0n the £63million Slab, they've waived the rules. Despite their policy targets of 50% affordable homes, no affordable housing can be built on The Slab at all. So when Hackney's Mayor Pipe calls The Slab "a useful bit of development land" one has to ask "Useful to whom?"

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Boris! It's a deluge of drivel.

The outcome of Boris' investigation into the scandalous £63million cost of The Slab, on which Dalston's bus/rail Transport Interchange has been built, has revealed nothing to the public about the actual cost of the Slab or how the cost ran out of control.

Boris Johnson had agreed, at the GLA Mayor's Question Time, to investigate the cost of The Slab in Dalston.

But instead of commenting on the cost, and knowing of the public's disgust at the wanton destruction of historic Dalston to pay for The Slab, Boris' Answer asserts "The only building to be demolished to make way for the scheme was the snooker hall on Kingsland Road".


So what happened to the old 1865 station?

And what happened to 2 Dalston Lane next to the old station?
And what happened to the cottages in Rosebery Place on the railway embankment?

And what happened to our locally listed Georgian houses on Hackney's site next door?

And what happened to Dalston Theatre?
And what happened to the oldest circus entrance in the country which became home to the legendary Four Aces Club?

All these historic buildings were in fact demolished by the authorities to maximise the development potential of their sites to help fund the cost of The Slab.

So when Boris says "The only building to be demolished to make way for the scheme was the snooker hall on Kingsland Road" it appears that he has been seriously misled. It's a deluge of drivel.

Not that the making of misleading statements by the authorities is anything new.

Right from the start TfL told OPEN, in writing, that "regarding the Hackney site there is little heritage effect from our proposals". But a few months later it was revealed that demolition of Dalston's heritage buildings and redevelopment of their site was part of the authorities' deal to pay for the The Slab. They called it "cross subsidy" - Hackney sold the site for a peppercorn and will rent back the library from Barratt.

And when OPEN obtained injunctions to stop the demolitions, for the alternative scheme to be considered, Hackney's solicitor wrote to tell us that the demolitions were a requirement of TfL. The LDA was to pay the demolition costs. Both are agencies of the GLA. The LDA even wrote to the Court to say that unless Dalston Theatre and the Georgian houses were demolished The Slab scheme would be financially unviable and would collapse.

And, throughout the time, the authorities told us that New Dalston's Transport Interchange on The Slab would be used by 80 buses an hour. But now, when it is revealed that only one bus route may in fact use it, we are told that the demolition of old Dalston and the £63million cost of The Slab was a necessary investment in future (unspecified) transport needs.

So it's more tall storeys from the GLA - another nine blocks of private flats for sale are being built on The Slab using public subsidy and with no affordable housing at all.
So if Boris can say "The only building to be demolished to make way for the scheme was the snooker hall on Kingsland Road" would it be surprising if members of the public don't believe anything the authorities tell us in the future?

The site of Hackney's Dalston Theatre and locally listed Georgian houses which were demolished to make way for The Slab Transport Interchange scheme
The Vandals: an eastern Germanic tribe which earned notoriety by sacking Rome in the 5th century but which was defeated by the Goths.
Vandalism: the gratuitous anti-social destruction of the environment and artistic creations.
Municipal vandalism: the destruction of our cultural heritage by corporate ignorance, deliberate neglect, vanity and greed all in the name of progress.

Thursday 30 September 2010

Arts superstars support Dalston's Arcola Theatre

Arcola Theatre has launched its first-ever public fundraising appeal with the announcement that Antony Gormley and Katharine Hamnett have joined forces with the theatre to support its ambitious fund-raising efforts.

£150,000 is required to secure the first stage of Arcola Theatre’s future development, which includes its relocation to 24 Ashwin Street - the former Colourworks factory opposite Dalston Junction station.

The launch took place at 24 Ashwin Street and Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen and the Arcola team gave future audiences a first glimpse of the new space, still under development, ahead of the first public performance on 7 January 2011.

To help kick-off fundraising efforts, Antony Gormley has donated an original artwork created just for Arcola that will be auctioned at a special gala event in December. Gormley’s design will also be printed onto T-shirts, which will be given to the first 200 individuals to make donations of £500 or over.

Fashion designer and ethical clothing innovator Katharine Hamnett has also come on-board and revived her iconic 80s CHOOSE LIFE slogan T-shirt with a fitting new logo for the theatre – CHOOSE ARCOLA.

Speaking of her involvement, Hamnett said: “Arcola Theatre needs all the financial support we can give it. It has been a testing ground for many great plays and had valuable involvement with the local community - from an over 50’s club to a Turkish theatre programme in Turkish - we need it to carry on.”

Friday 24 September 2010

Dalston's £63million bus stop sold for £7.50 at public auction.

An auction of Dalston's £63million bus stop, which has been built on The Slab over Dalston Junction station, took place at an OPEN public event on 16.9.10. The event was packed with Dalston residents for an evening which included literature, poetry, music, local news and satire. The politico-cultural soiree was delivered, almost without exception, by performers from our local creative community who live within walking distance of the venue.

If you missed the OPEN event at St Barnabas Church then here is your chance to listen to podcasts of what took place ( go to the OPEN podcast site here).

David Garrard of English Heritage told us how the Grade II* listed St Barnabas church ("the building I should like to be remembered by") was designed by the architect, Charles Herbert Reilly. And how the pre-modernist 1911 brick and concrete Byzantine basilica had been softened by a core of vivid colour and decoration, much of it provided by the Liverpool sculptor Tyson Smith.

St Barnabas Church, Shacklewell Row. Photo courtesy of English Heritage

On the night of the event the church had been lit to stunning effect using Arcola's carbon free hydrogen lighting, which created an atmosphere of intimacy and enchantment.

Event lighting and photos courtesy of Arcola's David Salter.

Also from Arcola Theatre its producer and playwright Leyla Nazli, and Arcola Energy's Dr Ben Todd, told us of the 10 year history of building Arcola's national reputation in Dalston and its public appeal for £150K to help their current move to the Colourworks in Ashwin Street, Dalston.

A recent street party in Ashwin Street in front of the Reeves Printhouse and Colourworks

Antony Gormley, who has donated an artwork for auction, and designer Katharine Hamnett have joined forces with the Arcola Theatre to support its ambitious fund-raising efforts

Also at the event was writer, poet and filmaker Iain Sinclair who read from, and talked about, his latest work - and touched on the world of virtual money, anomally cancellation, the disappearance of £millions from the 2010 Olympic site in clouds of radioactive dust and the make do and mend austerity Olympics of 1948 ( hear him on the OPEN podcast here). The Worship of Mammon by Evelyn de Morgan, 1909. From super-hero to sub-zero, 2009

During the evening we had two sets of music from local musicians The Dulce Tones. They were also joined by the next generation, two local youngsters, for a rendition of The Pink Panther.

Then there was the presentation of the Ceausescue Golden Spoon Award to Mayors Jules Pipe and Boris Johnson (regretably in their absence) by Steve Butters of Capacities Ltd. Winning the most public votes for the least popular development, the Golden Spoon award recognises the overbearing presence of the authorities' bulldozed scheme, Dalston Square. Lord Low of Dalston, OPEN's Patron and local resident, also spoke briefly on behalf of OPEN Dalston members who were presented with a certificate in tribute to their inspirational campaign and vigorous opposition to historic Dalston's obliteration and aspects of its redevelopment (hear their speeches on the OPEN podcast here).

Another highlight of the event was Michael Rosen, broadcaster, poet and former national Children's Laureate, who performed "Regeneration Blues" accompanied by improvised music from The Dulce Tones. You can hear the performance on the OPEN podcast here. It will be broadcast by the BBC later this month. Look out for more poetry and jazz events in Dalston in the future.And finally, to round off the evening, the only bus stop which will be used on The Slab at New Dalston's £63million Transport Interchange, was sold by public auction. Local people heard how the cost of The Slab, to build The Bus Stop on, had risen from £26million to £39 million and is now estimated to cost £63million.

But there was little enthusiasm for the project amongst the auction bidders. The bus-stop was snapped up, for just £7.50, by a Clapton resident who happened to be walking home past the auction venue in Dalston. He heard the auctioneer, Michael Rosen, describe how the 488 route is to be extended from Clapton to Dalston Junction. The 488 is the only bus which will use the new £63million Transport Interchange which has been built on The Slab above the station.
"It'll be really handy for getting the train to Croydon" said the purchaser from Clapton, who preferred to remain anonymous, "but I do agree that a £63million Transport Interchange seems a lot for the public to pay just for my convenience".
(£7.50. It' s a start! Only another £62,999,992.50 to go to pay for The Slab. Ed)