Once a place where windows should be rolled up and takeaway food should be avoided, London’s Orient has transformed itself into one of the capital’s most beloved areas.
East London provides much of the proverbial wood for our cultural fires, offering a veritable smorgasbord of cultures and presenting the best in music, art and fashion that seeps through its delightfully dingy back alleys. And with Olympic spirit having shined its all powerful light over the area, East London has now become a beacon for Britain – community driven, ethnically diverse, patriotic and above all, passionate.
So when a copy of a new anthology celebrating the wonderful world of Hackney, Acquired for Development By…: A Hackney Anthology, landed on our desk it seemed an apt way to join the celebrations of the East.
Published by Influx Press, Acquired for Development By…. is a collection of poetry, fiction and non-fiction prose from twenty-five writers, all Hackney citizens, either those who were born there or current residents. From Regent’s Canal, Clapton, Homerton to Dalston, this exciting collection of fresh writing talent is a perfect ode to the East London borough, capturing the ups and downs of the area in equal measure in the kind of creative form we have come to expect from East London’s residents.
Gavin James Bower’s Tara imagines the gritty world of a sex worker on the streets of Dalston, while journalist Tim Burrow’s account of the regeneration of Dalston Square in Dalston Kittiwakes, offers an interesting parallel when we consider where money might be best spent, on swish high rise flats, or helping the people on the ground.
Nell Frizzell’s touching Rivers of Change is a unique insight into the communities that reside on the River Lea, expressing the concerns of these people as British Waterways continue to tighten the rules on river boat living threatening both their homes and this age-old way of living.
Away from the more ‘rural’ face of East London, Gary Budden’s Tautologies eloquently describes changing urban landscape of East London; ‘the architectural nightmare of the newbuilds loomed high, a sci-fi warning spelt out in Lego bricks’.
The true vigour of the East comes out in the rhythms and grime of the collection’s poetry, particularly Neo-Noir Haikus, as Brendan Pickett encapsulates the ethos of Hackney in 17 syllables from the culturally astute; ‘Smokers talk book talk, outside pub doors exhaling. Non smokers, warmer’ to the more biting truth ‘Fashion boys and girls slum it with dad’s luxury, dustmen collect trash‘ and necessarily wary: ‘Gherkin horizon, looming over Murder Mile. Better watch your back’.
Whether it’s losing your dignity on the streets of Dalston, staying at The Dolphin until they turn the lights on (Tip: Always leave before they turn the lights on), or going to town on a Turkish kebab while waiting for the nightbus, it’s the grit and the stick of East London that gives it it’s life. Acquired for Development By… sounds out the many voices of the borough, celebrating its urbanity, cultural tensions and traditions and the future that now lies wide open.
Acquired for Development By: A Hackney Anthology is available from Hackney bookshops, Foyles, Amazon, independent bookshops and the Influx Press website, priced £11.99.
Illustration: Laura Oldfield Ford