Haggerston is a neighborhood in the London borough of Hackney, which is classified as one of the most deprived areas of the UK. It is also a rapidly changing area as property values rise in conjunction with the “regeneration” of East London, especially since the 2012 Olympic Games were hosted very nearby. This walk was a preliminary mapping exercise that is part of a university project centering on East London.
The route of my walk:
The London boroughs are huge and so this did not necessarily cover that much ground, but there were still many observations to be made. Most of my Hackney knowledge thus far is based around Hackney Road, which bustles with the sounds of cars, buses, the occasional siren. Veering away from there, however, I was surprised by just how much of Hackney seems to consist of housing. There are a large number of council estates (Britain’s form of social housing), but these have turned increasingly into privately-owned flats in recent years. Hackney was part of London’s urban sprawl in the 19th Century, home to a growing working class that fueled the city’s industry. Hints of the area’s history and current “regeneration” are quite evident when walking around, especially as estates and buildings with boarded-up windows, along with construction sites, are commonplace.
Right on the border of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, this old children’s hospital has been set for demolition and much of the community is in disagreement about the housing development that is to replace it.
Entryway to children’s hospital.
Walking down Hackney Road, the border street between the boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets.
The shell of a building, common sight in the area.
Barrier hiding construction on southside of Hackney Road.
A brand-new estate agent’s office.
Street art on Cremer Street.
Russell Brand in Hoxton.
The overground near Hoxton Station, opened in 2010 to connect Hackney to South London.
Old and new: St Chad’s Church, built 1868, next to a housing estate. The church was described as “part of the massive Victorian effort to bring the workers of East London into the Anglican Church.”
Leaving the noisy bustle of Hackney Road, Appleby Street is utterly silent. I come across a community garden.
Following the sound of a crane at work, I come across a major site of redevelopment in the area. The future “City Mills” will consist of privately-owned apartments.
Playground with demolishing buildings behind.
Flyer posted in the playground.
Though I don’t know for sure, the planned apartments are unlikely to be affordable for working-class Londoners.
“Regeneration” means mobility and better connection to London’s commercial centers.
A “revived” community…is the current one passed out/dead?
Süleymaniye Mosque, opened in 1999, on Kingsland Road. Built with Turkish funding, it includes a function hall, a school and a canteen.
On the other side of the future City Mills site, Laburnum Street.
Haggerston Baths, which have been long closed. The building was supposed to re-open as a community pool but hasn’t due to lack of funding.
A newer building on Queensbridge Road, apparently a mix of private and socially-rented housing, as well as workspaces.
Regent’s canal, which was a commercial waterway until 1950.
An abandoned warehouse with the new boat-like structure of Bridge Academy behind. The school, built in 2008, has won awards for its design, which attempts to provide adaptable classrooms and to deter bullying.
An abandoned lot on Dunston Road.
The Haggerston Estate, which has been due for redevelopment for a few years. An artists’ collective has put up photos of former residents over the boarded windows.
Another angle of the estate with another City Mills site in the background.
A football field off Pownall Road.
Broadway Market, an increasingly gentrified street, where a number of business owners have had to close up shop and move elsewhere.
It’s safe to say I’m obsessed with this building. It looks like just another Parisian building from the front (albeit somewhat unique with the red brick), but then you turn the corner and it’s like someone cut it right down the middle with a steak knife. Of course, a giant mural graces the back wall and on the side, the building’s very own space invader. I imagine a corner bedroom in such a structure might be rather uncomfortable, but Parisian apartments are all about challenging your level of comfort. Like so much else in Paris, it’s both beautiful and perplexing.
London is a city I still can’t quite put my finger on. Mainly, it’s so enormous that it seems impossible to try to think about it as one solitary entity. I am always shocked by how long it takes to traverse the city on bus or underground, making me evermore grateful for how everything in Paris is relatively close in comparison (people still get lazy in their respective quartiers, but it doesn’t usually take more than 20-30 minutes to cross the city on public transport.) And unlike Paris which has a definitive boulevard péripherique, London has no clear borders. It’s easy to tell that people aren’t always sure whether a certain neighborhood is in or outside of London. Perhaps it’s “outer London”? Not that it really matters. Though I do think that because of its much higher population and the gigantic, nebulous land area that London inhabits, certain neighborhoods can appear much more distinctive when traveling between them. In Paris it’s often just a matter of turning a street corner to find a completely new socio-economic/demographic/cultural makeup; in London you may have to travel farther, but the feeling of coming across a world-within-a-world is more apparent.
The world of central London has often left me a little at odds. Parts seem too commercial, like Times Square, or too bourgeois, like Paris’ Opéra quarter. The national monuments just don’t strike me with the same unapologetic romanticism as they do in Paris. I was eager to find neighborhoods a little off the beaten path that might interest me more. So last time I visited, Gary and I looked for something a little different to do on a (yep) rainy day and settled on a free “alternative” tour of East London. We braved the lightly sprinkling rain as our guide showed us old markers in the road that serve as the border between the City of London and East London (another system of borders I still don’t understand) and off we went to explore Brick Lane and the surrounding area. Besides being the site of what is probably the highest concentration of curry houses in the world, this neighborhood has been home to many different groups and immigrant communities. For one reason or another, it has also served as a chosen canvas for the incredible work of local and international street artists.
The Brick Lane Masjid, or mosque, is a perfect example of East London’s layered mulit-cultural history. Built in 1743 as a Protestant chapel for French Hugeunots who had escaped persecution in France, it was later adopted as a synagogue for Jewish refugees and finally as a mosque for the growing Bangladeshi community.
We saw a few pieces by a Belgian artist named Roa, who primarily paints giant black-and-white animals on the sides of buildings. This recent and particularly haunting piece is in color, though. Gotta wonder if he’s a vegetarian. Continue reading “East London”→
The past couple weeks have been my first in Cairo since the January 25th revolution. As soon as I arrived I was eager to identify tangible changes in a city I used to know more than any other. (Of course, not all changes are tangible.) So what follows is a list, in no way intended to serve as substantial political analysis, of just that. It is a list based completely on my own observations and some anecdotal evidence, but if you know me then you know where I’m coming from, and this list might help you to understand Egypt how I see it, as well as Egypt as it is, a tiny bit better.
1. Election posters.
The very fist thing that was obviously different to me, that I noticed on my first walk outside my parents’ apartment in Zamalek, were these election posters pasted over walls everywhere. Since this is a country that had not had “real” elections in decades, posters like these are completely out of place to me. Before, if anyone’s face graced public spaces, it was Mubarak’s. Though when I visited exactly two years ago, we also spotted a couple posters of Gamal Mubarak, the President’s son, who was repeatedly described in the foreign press as being “groomed” to replace the sickly Hosni. I remember the ominous feeling that gave me, the prospect of this cruel dictatorship continuing as before with a newer, younger face, a prospect that pleased no Egyptian that I knew.
This time around, I’ve seen Mubarak’s face I believe a total of three times, and in no positive context–primarily in graffiti critical of his regime. Today, it is faces of anonymous Egyptian citizens-women included–that cover the walls of the city.