Harriet Walker: 'I'm going to miss the gurning strangers'

Share
Related Topics

Just before I started sixth form, my old school building was knocked down. This was not a problem, because we had a spiffy new one to move into. At the time, I was so gleeful that the Dickensian gymnasium had been reduced to rubble and the sports department crammed into a basement that I didn't really have time for nostalgia.

But last weekend I went to a farewell party for another building soon destined for the dust, in an area of London about to be reduxed and redeveloped in time for the Olympics. Looks like the sports department got the last laugh.

This was not much of a building – a dank and slightly manky warehouse on the edge of Hackney at the far end of a cul-de-sac near a housing estate – but it had played host to parties of the sort that some might call iconic. I prefer to avoid that word, unless in reference to religious figurines, but I'm prepared to use it in this context; that warehouse had become a sort of church in itself.

It was, until recently, inhabited by a group of friends from university. Being creative, hip and middle-class sorts, they had ended up living in the disused office block (naturellement!) with no rubbish collections, very little furniture and toilets better suited to a train station. I was, of course, painfully jealous of those with the ability to live in this way, and quite liked the idea of having three toilet cubicles in a row at my disposal. But whenever I left those parties, caked in the sort of industrial grime more usually found on a building site, and pulled the door shut behind me, only to have it fall off its hinges into my hands, I was inordinately happy to return to my own chintzy little flat, which has a telly and working radiators. And wasn't full of gurning strangers.

As we pulled up in a taxi (three had refused to take us there, on the basis that they might get lost – which bodes well for Olympic visitors), there were hordes of revellers making their way to the venue, like George Romero's zombies heading to the mall. "I remember climbing over that wall to sneak in," I heard one zombie reminisce nearby, "but I got thrown out anyway because I landed on a bouncer's head on the other side."

"I tried that once too," sighed another. "But my trendy Parka got caught on the fence and ripped."

Needless to say, it was a specific sort of crowd: a post-university, creative industries and media-bound, heady selection of the jeunesse d'orée. Plus me and my boyfriend. "Look at that old raver!" he said, nudging me and talking out the corner of his mouth. "Look at his clothes, it's just like the 1990s, I bet he knew Bez." Nudge, nudge, nudge.

The old raver in question was indeed decked out in grungy plaid, DayGlo and stonewash denim, but was also about 23. "No," I countered from the corner of my mouth, "he's just dressed like Bez. That's the look they channel now, the ravers."

When we got inside and met up with our usual pack of party-goers, I realised with a poignant stab in the gut that it was only right for this warehouse to be closing down. That it, like us, was rather past its prime, brilliant though the night turned out to be. Two of our friends had left their baby at home and turned up in a Prius; another had spent the day repotting her windowboxes; one had to get a train to a conference the next day; yet another was worried about the industrial grime coating the hem of her Prada trousers. Compared with the pack of sweaty, nubile, vest-and-shorts-clad youngsters queuing outside, we were practically 100 years old – more, if you were to count collectively.

While we were happy to give the place a send-off, we were less happy with what it might take with it – namely, our youth. From the back door, we looked out across the canal at the new order, the hulk of the new Stratford shopping mall glinting in the half-light of dawn, and thought of the car park that would be built in the wound the warehouse would leave in its wake.

Three hours later, my boyfriend bounced up to me. "We don't go out enough any more," he said. "Look how fun this is." We surveyed the scene, sweat dripping from the walls, a bike hanging inexplicably on wires from the ceiling, an inflatable life-size Shrek dummy propped up behind the makeshift bar.

Back when these parties started, I was an intern working on magazines for free. I did shifts in a local pub for money, and went for a dance after last orders. I then went back to work at the pub when it was all over the next day. There are some aspects of my youth I'm happy to leave behind. But there are others I'm just not ready to say goodbye to. I hope the Olympics are worth it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star