Hackney Dreams

This was Broadway Market in 1979, and in Sharon’s Party Wear shop window was a small dress on a stand, standing on a curved plinth sandwiched between some highly patterned wall paper and the wire grid protecting the glass.

Above it on the wallpaper was a notice ‘Bridesmaid and Confirmation made to order‘. The dress seemed too small to be made even for a child to wear and was perhaps there as an example of the standard of workmanship, but the whole scene had for me a remarkable pathos, hard to explain.

Just along from there was ‘DREAMWEAR, The Lingerie Shops of London‘, but I could only dream, as the metal shutters across its front were firmly padlocked, never to open again, and next door even the corrugated iron was looking rather past its best. These pictures were among those in my book and web site London Dérives.

Of course there was a need for redevelopment, though it was rather greed than need that drove it, and even more than 25 years later the battle over the gentrification of the area was still raging, with the community fighting evictions – and losing to a dodgy council and corrupt developers. There is a film made for Channel 4 in 2007 by Emily James on her web site about the battle which makes interesting viewing. There certainly have been gains for the area but at the totally unnecessary loss of forcing out a number of small local businesses and a change in the nature of the area.

One of the few – if not the only property left that still retains some of the feeling of the old Broadway Market – is F Cooke’s, and that’s where I was heading on Thursday evening, not for a pie with mash and liquor but for a book launch.
Hoxton Mini Press describes itself as “an independent publisher based in East London making collectable photography books“, and I’ve so far collected two of them, the irrepressible ‘Shoreditch Wild Life’ by Dougie Wallace, now in its second edition, and the charming ‘I’ve Lived in East London for 86 ½ Years’ by Martin Usborne – now in its third edition, starring Joseph Markovitch, who “has left London only once to go to the seaside with his mother. He loves Nicolas Cage, has five sugars in his tea, would have married a six foot two Hispanic woman but in the end had bad chest catarrh and never had a girlfriend.”

Broadway Market is next to the Regent’s Canal, and I photographed here many times over the years, though finding those pictures now is something of a problem. In my latest book on Blurb, Canal Walks (as always I recommend the PDF version on ground of both cost and quality), a double page spread shows two images made on the route I walked from the bus to Broadway Market, including an image under the railway bridge from 1983.

I paused on my walk last Thursday evening to photograph from more or less the same spot, though with a rather wider lens, and although there are a few differences, I could still see much the same view, which includes several other places where I’ve made photographs.

Then came a spectacle that seemed somehow to me to sum up the very different Hackney of today to that when I first photographed here. F Cooke was rather different too, transformed for the night into a book shop, and with a large crowd on the street outside drinking from bottles of a craft ale, Five Points Pale, brewed in a railway arch under Hackney Downs station.

When the beer ran out I made my way home through a street familiar to fans of Throbbing Gristle, to catch a bus to Bethnal Green.

The Five Points Pale had gone down very easily, and perhaps had something to do with the rather odd hallucination I found myself photographing in Bethnal Green before taking the tube on my way home.


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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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