Monday, 16 April 2012

The Future of East London for Dazed & Confused

The latest issue of Dazed & Confused is an east London special. As the Olympic Games looms and Hackney rents rise, I talk to such east London players as The Foundry's Tracey Moberly, Upset The Rhythm's Chris Tipton and Influx Press, who are publishing the anthology that I contributed "Dalston Kittiwakes"(which I can only describe as a "creative essay") to, Acquired for Development By....

For the piece, I took a wander to the Westfield Stratford City mega-mall from Old Street with the artist and post-industrial romantic Laura Oldfield Ford. Below she talks about Westfield, the nature of her art, and angering Hackney "yuppies".

How do you feel about Westfield Stratford City?
Aesthetically it feels like an international airport - but it’s not necessarily the aesthetic of it that I despise but the other side to it. The precarious labour conditions and the fact that all this money has been sucked out of this area and taken offshore into tax havens, with none of it actually coming back into the area. People here are on minimum wage and work without being unionised. It is that sort of thing I object to. I don’t fetishise poverty chic as it were; I object to the nature of working in these places.

Most people we have encountered in here are not shopping. They are like us, just looking at the spectacle, wandering round it and looking at it. I think it is quite interesting as a phenomenon. Hardly anyone’s got shopping bags. Which does beg the question how long this place will actually survive. If it has become such a spectacle, people are not really using it in the way that they want them to. Maybe they are relying on future inhabitants of the area who are gonna buy it up. But where are they gonna come from? I just don’t think they exist.

I heard that people have been starting fights at your talks?
We’ve had a few brawls so far. The people who are eager to ask questions tend to be the people who object to being called "yuppies". They’ll argue with me or ask me "Where is all this poverty you talk of?" And the room will be packed out with a load of people who have been evicted from the area, booted out, living in really precarious conditions – suddenly this huge groundswell of support for me erupts. At Cafe Oto [in Dalston] the yuppies started throwing punches. It all spilled outside, it got really heated. These blokes were absolutely furious. They’d seen it advertised in Time Out or something because it was described as East End psychogeography. They thought, "Oh yes I like Iain Sinclair. I’ll go along to Cafe Oto. I’m liberal and progressive and I bought a home here so this is my little patch of London." They all like living in little villages now. The room was packed out by people who were being evicted by these guys who were denying that there has been a shortage of social housing, but everyone in the room was living proof that that was the case.

Read my piece on the future of east London plus further interviews and photography by Jamie Hawkesworth in the new issue of Dazed & Confused, out now. Top image courtesy of Laura Oldfield Ford

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