Musical Heatwave in Cold Hackney

Woke up late on Sunday. I was stirred from my slumber by the buoyant beat of a soca tune. We just can't resist a carnival beat. It may have rained, and it may have been cold but we still danced in the streets.

Hackney is one of London's most ethnically diverse boroughs. Like many parts of east London, and due to the cheaper rents, the area was attractive to immigrants who moved to UK seeking new lives. As a result Hackney has been a melting pot of cultural influences over many years.

Recently Hackney has been going through rapid gentrification that has made me look at my neighbourhood in a different light. It saddens me deeply that so many longtime locals are often side-lined and pushed aside in favour of the demands of the new blood in the area. New businesses are cropping up frequently in Hackney. On the surface this may seem as though it is assisting in a much needed regeneration of the area. However, these new trendy local businesses tend to stick together in networks that support each other yet in many cases exclude long-standing local businesses. These older businesses in many cases are unable to keep up with the changes around them and marketing themselves to a new market is just such a foreign concept. The result is that these truly local businesses benefit very little from the gentrification of Hackney and as people who have lived here for generations move away because they can no longer afford the steep rents, these businesses actually have begun to lose even their loyal customers. Many of the stall holders in the Ridley Road market illustrate this point. The string vest man, the African fabric vendors, they have all told me that business is "too bad these days".

I have always counted it as a blessing that I am able to stumble out of my front door into a Turkish supermarket where I can pick up olives and freshly baked bread. I can stop by the Jamaican grocer and buy some Ital ingredients along with my grapefruit Ting. I can buy a hot fresh roti from the Trini mumma's stall in the market and be back home in under 10 minutes. Our days in this country are numbered and when we finally do leave, it is this cultural diversity that I will miss more than anything. Hackney has been a wonderful place to live because of these people and if they go....it will lose its soul and lustre. I wish more people realised that it is the PEOPLE that make a place what it is. 

So when on Sunday, we awoke to reggae, soca and roti and the dancing smiles of locals, old and young, it was like a hug from Hackney....real Hackney.


  1. Wow! That looked like it was a lot of fun! So colorful and festive. How sad that the neighborhood of old is slowly becoming no longer.


    P.S.--BTW, did you receive the package yet? I hope so since it's been a while.

  2. It's so refreshing to see someone criticize gentrification so beautifully. I live in Brooklyn and one of its neighborhoods, Williamsburg, is the poster-boy for gentrification, often lauded for it's successful "development" from a working class demographic and a landscape that reflects where these people came from to a yuppie/hipster-centric neighborhood. People really don't see how gentrification is about displacing the locals and making a neighborhood a "better" place for newcomers only.

  3. I've come to the conclusion that the type of gentrification you've described above is unavoidable and part of the cycle of life of an neighbourhood... but I can't help feeling that it's a shame all the same. My own neighbourhood in Vancouver has begun to undergo the same process and places I have loved in spite of the fact that they were not pretty are disappearing in favour of attractive but soulless businesses. It's sad. But wonderful when you see the old soul of the place come to life once again :)

  4. what a perfect way to spend a sunday, how could this put anyone in a bad mood. great images, really capturing the heart.

  5. What a colourful array of people, it's so beautiful! And they say all people can't get along, there aren't looking in the right places. This is what real community is all about. The people are gorgeous. I would have loved to see this is real life, I would have been dancing away, haha :)) Aren't the ladies in the last picture adorable, love that!! xx

  6. I completely understand your point: when an area starts to be invaded by 'chain shops' (be it food or clothing) somehow it looses its identity. There must be a balance otherwise every city will end up looking the same...Yasumi, I would really love to visit 'your' London. Hopefully very soon! Caterina


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