"It is not the walls that make the city, but the people who live within them. The walls of London may battered but the spirit of the Londoner stands resolute.”
So tweeted proto-hipster King George VI back in the 1930s, as he took a trip to the recently opened Beigel Shop on Brick Lane. Even then the queue was massive. We wonder what the King would have made of the London Borough of Hackney in the 21st Century, where the battered walls are covered with subversive street art, QR codes and adverts for blindfold yoga, the air is thick with fragrant electric vape smoke and the streets are paved with GOLD (GOLD Lager 5.6% abv 4x500ml. £5.25).
The sad fact is that ol’ King George was wrong, the walls DO make a city. Good News Hackney can tell a lot about people from the marks they make on London’s battered walls and the traces they leave behind as they try get by in by in this cruel, dark and impassive city.
But we don’t care about the other Boroughs, frankly. We don’t even maintain diplomatic relations with most of them. We're about God’s own borough, the London Borough of Hackney.
And what a place! An absolute mess and a compelling one at that. A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an old chicken box lying in the gutter outside a £1.5million one bedroom flat.
Looking at London from a distance, as most people do, you can only comprehend it as a whole. A single unit. Like the moon, or the seed at the centre of an overpriced avocado.
Up close that you can see the rough edges, the stitching and the glue that holds it all together. That is what this book is about.
London is famously a patchwork of swallowed up towns and villages. A ghostly geographic legacy of ancient market squares, graveyards and village greens are a confusing backdrop for modern living, and every part of London had its own character and idiosyncrasies. But nobody tells you that. You move to London. Singular.
Hackney, a chaotic slice of London where 250,000 people from 100 countries, are crammed into less than 20 square kilometres of churning pulsing modern metropolis. This is an overwhelming, esoteric and unknowable place, overflowing with culture and subculture, history tumbling from the cupboards, legends 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 rich rub up against the poor and the rest of us endure the ‘cool’ people in a warren of ancient streets. All life is here, standing on the wrong side of the escalator FaceTiming their annoying mate.
This is a unique book. What began seven years ago a hobby to archive bizarre local news headlines evolved into a collaborative photography project with hundreds of contributors, millions of visits and dubious awards such as the ‘best London blog’ from the Guardian.
Part guide book, part cultural museum, part love letter, Good News Hackney tells the story of the London Borough of Hackney in the 21st Century as it hurtles head first into the future while still dragging the past behind it.
There are no people here, just the marks they leave behind on a city that could not care less.