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On the wall (studio apartment)
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Part guide book, part cultural museum, part love letter. Good News Hackney tells the story of a day in the life of the London Borough of Hackney as it hurtles head first into the future, dragging the past behind it.
This is a coffee table book for people who wish they had room for a coffee table. Funny, sad, confusing and intriguing, Good News Hackney presents a series of pathetic, hilarious and touchingly optimistic juxtapositions found on the streets of North East London, framing them through the prism of a decade of hyperbolic Hackney Gazette headlines.
The photographs and headlines in this book capture a day in the life of special slice of London. There are no people here, just the marks they leave behind on an impassive city that couldn’t care less.
This is a unique book. The bastard child of the inordinately popular Good News Hackney website, which has been affectionately satirising, cataloguing and chronicling the weird and wonderful since 2010.
Now, like everyone else, we’ve been priced out. As closing time beckons and the landlord turns out the lights in the Hackney we knew, we’re running this crowd-funding campaign with Unbound to create a permanent archive of an exceptional time in the history of this place. We’re not in this for the money, so every penny raised goes to producing and publishing the book. If we get anything extra (highly unlikely) we’ll make a donation to some of our favourite local charities.
Wallowing in East London
Since the very start, Hackney has been home to Londoners of every type and taste. Today 250,000 people from more than 100 countries, are crammed into less than 20 square kilometres of churning, pulsing modern metropolis.
London is changing fast and Hackney is Checkpoint Charlie in the Gentrification Cold War. If you take the time to notice the obvious you can learn a lot about the city London was, what it is today and the sometimes unrecognisable place it’s becoming.
To some extent, it has always been like this. Stretching from the digital highlands of ‘Tech City’ to the ancient mists of the Lea Valley marshes, Hackney has always been a place of extremes. Today more than ever the people that built the culture so readily commoditised by media men and soulless developers are under extraordinary pressure. Hackney carries on in the face of turbocharged change, politely making room for a seemingly endless onslaught new neighbours.
Good News Hackney takes you down to street level in a chaotic slice of London. An overwhelming, esoteric and unknowable place, overflowing with culture and subculture, with history tumbling from the cupboards, myth and legend sloshing around your feet. At once ostentatious and flash, modest and effortless, Hackney is a place where the past competes for space with the future, the very rich rub up against the very poor and the rest of us endure the ‘very cool’ in a warren of ancient streets.
All life is here, standing on the wrong side of the escalator and making you late for work.
A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an old chicken box lying in the gutter outside a £1.5million one bedroom flat. This is the London Borough of Hackney in all of its chaotic confusing glory.
Come marvel at Hackney in all of its chaotic confusing glory. Parodied to the point of obliteration; crowned the 'coolest neighbourhood on earth’ by Vogue, 'worst town in Britain' Channel 4 and ‘least affordable place to live’ by the Office for National Statistics. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder why you didn’t notice that.
Like all truly great things, Hackney is complicated and best looked at up close.
So buy a book, some swag or even a personalised headline from the famous Hackney Gazette and help us make Good News Hackney a reality before we shut down the site for good and move to the sticks.
Good News Hackney: Everything Must Go
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Then: A freshly minted 24 year old resident of Hackney and naive economic migrant.
Now: Jaded mega cynic who has less than no time for your bullshit, Hackney.
When I told friends I was moving to the Hackney they reacted in one of two ways. Half told me that I was going to live among the very worst type of awful, offensive, self-regarding hipsters, they had always known I was an arsehole and that I was richly deserving of my awful fate. The rest of my friends, from the world beyond London, simply shook their head, exhaled sharply and told me bluntly that I would be dead in six months, a victim of a terrible and bloody crime that would not even make the nightly news.
Clearly Hackney had something of a reputation, or lots of different reputations.
But I had no idea about any of this, I just wanted to move to London.
And so it was that I came to live in Homerton, a corner of the London Borough of Hackney; a small triangle squeezed up against the Hackney Marshes of legend and myth. It was just unfashionable enough (at the time), to be affordable and seemed to be a kind of high ground, protected from the rising tide of gentrification that was sweeping up from dickhead mecca London Fields. How bad can it be, I thought?
On day one, like any conscientious new resident I made a beeline to my local 24 hour lager and tobacco emporium to pick up those items and a copy of the esteemed local rag, the Hackney Gazette (est 1864).
That’s where this story really begins, with a single headline.
NOWHERE LEFT TO BURY THE DEAD
It was screaming out from the submarine yellow news boards that appear every fifty yards along the road. Such an apocalyptic headline, broadcast at full volume across the borough must refer to some terrible tragedy, I thought.
The sensationally violent imagery of a London borough groaning under the weight of so many corpses. The use of the term ‘the dead’ evoking the plague and the lilting cart of Black Death victims bumping through the streets of 14th century London. Most worryingly, what killed all these people, why is everyone dying?
I added the said newspaper to my battered shopping basket with more than a little concern.
In the end, the story was something of a disappointment. Not the medieval bloodbath I had imagined, but a rather mundane piece on municipal zoning causing a delay to a new council graveyard. I binned the paper, lamenting the sensationalism of the shouty headline.
But the headline stayed with me. Over the years, I developed an unspoken affinity for the anonymous headline writer and their black sense of humour.
I started to take photos of those headlines in 2010, just because I thought someone should. That led me to develop a keen eye for the odd and unusual. I didn't realise at the time, but I was capturing a borough going through a fraught reckoning with itself.
Good News Hackney is part guide book, part diary, part love letter and part therapy for a city under pressure.
These people are helping to fund Good News Hackney: Everything Must Go.
maryem biadillah starling