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.