Photo credit: oslohackney.co.uk
If you’re planning to visit London, you may have heard about fears of growing gentrification in London's east end. The borough of Hackney is still off the beaten track for many visitors but the area is certainly on the up, so what does gentrification mean for these areas? We asked our girl Sophie, a born and bred Londoner living in Dalston for her take on gentrification in east London. And if you fancy getting off the beaten path and exploring more of Hackney with Sophie, you can check out her profile here!
Hackney, East London: a hub for fashion, music, the underground, and rapid gentrification. Within this culturally rich borough areas such as Dalston, Stoke Newington, Shoreditch and Hoxton have put this corner of London firmly on any tourist’s map if they want to experience the hip, gritty and cutting edge side of the city. These areas offer up fascinating contrasts of the old and new, side by side. Through exploring these areas you will be given a more complex answer to the question of whether gentrification is either urban regeneration or social cleansing.
This local neighbourhood is a fascinating case study in gentrification, and stands at the forefront of East London’s scene in nightlife, affordable dining and fashion. Dalston, which was home to London’s first ever reggae club is now experiencing a rapid gentrification which has too readily been blamed on bearded hipsters and an affluent white middle class sipping flat whites outside trendy cafes. On 12 Dalston Lane where once stood nightclubs are now two apartment high-rises, Labyrinth Towers. In these expensive box sized apartments, memories of the parties and underground music scene are a distant echo, replaced by the rattle of the Overground line.
Photo credit: hackneybuildings.org
But the community spirit of the past still remains, captured in the Dalston Lane Mural which was painted in 1985. A doorway beside this leads you into the magical Eastern Curve Garden, where you can grab a stone baked pizza, pale ale and enjoy some live music away from the hustle and bustle. Another local gem is the unique art deco Rio Cinema, which regularly shows classics alongside new independent cinema. The Turkish community is strong and well respected in the area, so much so that during the London riots their businesses where left untouched. Experience cheap, authentic Turkish food in the award winning Mangal Ocakbasi, or grab a morning gozleme (Turkish pancake) freshly made for £2 at various cafes along Kingsland Road.
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Gentrification of the area is exemplified by London Fields’ Broadway Market which is contrasted with the local Ridley Road Market. Opposite Dalston station, Ridley Road is a testament to the area’s multicultural community. This vibrant street keeps it real with butchers selling cows feet, goats head, t-shirts for a pound and cheap fruit and veg. Jamaican reggae blasts out, while food stands serve up tasty jerk and patties. Every summer the market clears and hosts Hackney Carnival, where old and new generations come together to dance, drink and celebrate diversity. But just a stroll away, Borough Market offers up lobster rolls and other delicacies, including an amazing variety of posh cheese and mushrooms, catering for the newer inhabitants of East London. Luckily you can still grab a traditional pie and mash here at F Cooke's, a local institution that’s been going for generations!
Head two miles into the city to Shoreditch and experience more of a city vibe. On weekends Essex boys fill up the bars and traces of the old are now more evident in the architecture than the crowd. However clubs such as Village Underground and Cargo provide good sound systems for dancing, and nearby Brick Lane has great street art and late night eateries such the many curry houses and bagel shops.
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The other side of Dalston is Stoke Newington, which now lacks a rough edge. Church Street, the main road, was once a very run down area. Now you will mainly encounter yummy mummies conversing over lattes with their two tiers prams parked outside. But this area is great for grabbing breakfast then taking a stroll in the beautiful Clissold Park. Go for fancy eggs at The Good Egg which has a New York and Mediterranean inspired brunch menu. There is always a weekend queue. If you fancy getting a full English at a proper working man’s price, hit up old favourite Leo’s Cafe. No frills and ungentrified grub.
Photo credit: hackneygazette.co.uk
If you are seeking a truly authentic pint, head to the famed The Auld Shillelagh. Bang in the middle of Church Street, this place serves up one of the best pints of Guinness in London. Alongside your authentic Guinness you will be surrounded by a colourful array of locals and their wild banter. You are more likely to encounter a jovial fight than hipsters in here. Just don't ask for a Cosmopolitan. But if you fancy something a little more refined hit up Original Sin on Stoke Newington High Street. Their ambient decor and Espresso martinis are spot on. Finally, escape the world of gentrification with a stroll around the stunning Abney Park Cemetery. This is the real heart of Stoke Newington, where whispers of the past, future, old and new drift amongst the ivy clad tombstones.