THE BATTLE OF KINGSLAND ROAD
by Captain of the Rant
Excerpt from the pamphlet Retrospective Study of The Battle of Kingsland Road, p. 7, author unknown
Just over a mile of traffic choked concrete vein runs through Hackney, connecting two beating hearts of mutual disdain. Let us start at the north tip of this vein. Stoke Newington.
They swooped into the area slowly over the years, migrating east for a new life from Islington. Attracted by the RealGrittyUrbanLondon and an itch to free themselves from the ties and prejudices of the middle class. The teachers, the doctors, the businessmen, the mentors, the independent artists, the freelance journalists. The self-propped and the academic. The clean spines of Chomsky, Vidal and Sinclair snugged on antiquely bookcases. Red wine and spliff wind downs, cocaine smeared mirror nights.
Gleaming white paninis – smoothly bragging organic – began to nestle awkwardly against the artificial Americanisms of the Dixy Chickens', with their steaming brightness and their cheaply, deeply fried poultry.
The pubs upped price, the up-funk leak from their speakers building walls, shadowing the estates that briefly peered in from the edges. Tattered homeless punks (heads leaning in doorways, arms clenched around knees, half-smoked cigarettes balanced confidently on beer cans) were likewise acknowledged in theory, but not in practice.
There was suprisingly little tension between the new arrivals and the concrete shouts, just a slowly dimming fade until only the well trained and newly bright remained.
You turn to face south. In the distance, The City's grey haze looms, the relic Gherkin centrepeice illuminating the impenetrable Gucci banknote blur at its feet. You walk towards it (but never to it, remember), down Stoke Newington Road to arrive at the border of Dalston Junction. Here, transparently high rised flats preside over Dalston's sprinkled, cramped trendy bars and Turkish coffee houses...
Let us walk just under the mile south to the next border. Shoreditch.
Formerly a crumpled slum, much like Stoke Newington: hollowed warehouses piled high (sweatshop workers and squatters crammed in), whispered danger zones, blank blowjobs in alleyways, market traders. This RealGrittyUrbanLondon enticed the film makers, the T-shirt designers, the drum n' bass producers who rapidly filled every space with exhibitions, arts studios, mangled electrics. Tossed wraps, with tiny shards of MDMA clinging, swept with the breeze. Prominent local markets were celebrated, then silenced into history dust.
A scene soon gestated. Skilled in absorbing rhetoric punchiness and regurgitating gaudy clenches of style. The fetishisation of the nothing. Polar opposite to Stoke Newington's pseudo-intellectual liberal-left, it fashioned empty anti-capitalism and emptier offence. Extravaganting loudness pioneered.
Between these borders, The No Man's Land of The Battle. Kingsland Road. Afro-Carribean hairdressers, bargain clothes shops, underground Nigerian restaurants...
For the new arrivals on either side of The Battle, it represented empty space to be coloured in. Primed to stamp their own locality brand, they began to charge. Things were going to change. One way or the other.