Monday, July 27, 2009

500 word news, LSJ 2009

Saturday sees the opening of The Hackney Social on Kingsland High Street. One of the many new venues in Dalston, The Hackney Social will be the first official gay club in the area.

Dan Beaumont and Matt Stone have spent the last five years working as club promoters and DJ’s in Shoreditch, saving up money to open their own club. “Our aim is to create a straight friendly gay club”, says Dan. Even with many new venues such as Barden’s Boudoir and Moustache Bar opening their doors to those in the know lately, the area around Dalston Junction is still dominated by the Turkish and Caribbean communities.

The Turkish government were challenged by Human Rights Watch in April last year after Istanbul plainclothes police raided LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender) headquarters in the capital. In Jamaica sexual acts between men are prohibited and can result in a 10 year prison sentence and is considered by many as the worst place in the Americas for LGBT people.

“We are aware that some of the residents might have a problem”, says Matt “but this is London, not Turkey or Jamaica”, adds Dan. Despite their positive attitude, Dan and Matt have employed a heavy security presence for their opening night. “I am concerned”, says Ori Altarace, a local resident and bartender at The Hackney Social before adding: “It is inevitable though, a natural progression for Dalston.”

“Shoreditch has slowly been creeping up Kingsland Road”, says Matt Stone, “Dalston is seeing a trend invasion and the gay scene is very much a part of this”, he adds. Matt is referring to the influx of young artists, musicians and designers in the North Hackney/Dalston area. Priced out of trendy Shoreditch, the creative community is steadily moving north to escape extortionate rent and a “scene” that has become stale.

Cultural regeneration of urban areas has been used as a strategy by governments all over the world for the last 15 years. A naturally occurring phenomenon in New York in the 1970’s and 80’s, as artists would take over areas such as So-Ho, and more recently Brooklyn Heights, attracted by cheap rents and lack of neighbours, these creative communities inadvertently raised the profile and status of these neighbourhoods. Observing these trends, town planners and local government began engineering the movements of creative communities. Sophia Slater, research fellow at the School of Architecture at Liverpool University said: “It is a fantastically effective and cheap way of regenerating struggling areas. Eventually however, the creative communities that made the area attractive in the first place, are priced out”.

“Diversity is what makes London the greatest city in the world”, says Philip Williams, dancehall DJ and former owner of Caribbean Nights Night Club, “A gay club will be great for the area”, he adds.

Safiye Erdogan, a waitress at the Evin CafĂ© said: “They are very brave boys, there are some people here who don’t like changes. Personally, I won’t go, but I don’t think anyone should make trouble for anyone else.”

Mia Tagg 2009®

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