Susie Rushton: My Hackney feels different somehow

Urban Notebook

Related Topics

Six months ago, one Saturday morning, I walked out on east London without a backward glance, and on the occasions since that I've found myself back in Old Street or Whitechapel, I've felt like an impostor. East London is clubby like that: you're either in, or you're out.

I don't think there is anyone more committed to the area than the writer Iain Sinclair and his passion for the borough of Hackney, in particular, was the theme of a guided tour I joined at the weekend. Our group must have made quite an odd sight: the headmasterish Sinclair at the front, his artist friends, a rabble of curators and press, and two dogs. On a sunny afternoon, when any sensible Londoner was in the park, we were on a bus – an old red Routemaster with comfy seats and a real string luggage-rack – that zig-zagged from Finsbury Park to London Fields and Cambridge Heath Road.

It felt like a different city. We passed close by a house where I used to live, and I was surprised at how hard it was to recognise my old road. Budget hotel chains, oriental supermarkets, new-build developments have in a matter of months changed once-familiar streets.

Sinclair has written a 600-page book about Hackney, but his commentary lingered on the gradual erasure of its unlovely buildings, and the psychological impact this has on the borough's more sensitive residents.

The tour's ultimate destination was the perimeter of the Olympic Park, which stretches from Stratford to the car-breaking yards of Hackney Wick. It was almost sunset when the writer led us into the car park of an industrial block now inhabited by squatters. "This is the front line," he said, with a smile, and gestured at a high, bright blue fence next to the canal. The residents of Hackney Wick, he explained, had simply awoken one morning to find a partition slicing through their neighbourhood.

The only people who have made any visible response to the arrival of the fence are the graffiti artists: Sinclair pointed out furious alligators and gnashing teeth, painted on walls and bridges, opposite the perimeter. Before it got dark, we climbed up five flights of stairs to the top of an old chocolate factory where young artists can rent studios at cheap rates, an arrangement that will expire as the 2012 deadline draws near.

From up here you can easily see over the divide, and take in the view: dozens of cranes, earth mounds, trucks, no trees or grass, a half-finished stadium – and giant green alligators snapping at the fence.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas