Discover Hackney

London changes in a million imperceptible ways every day. All that remains after the flux are the stories – stories about the people, places and issues that define it. This project, steered by Beefeater and VICE, aims to capture these stories, shining new light on five London boroughs with five gifted photographers.
Stretching from the urban wilds of its eastern marshes to the City's doorstep in the south, Hackney can often seem like a metropolis in its own right. One of London's most aggressively regenerated boroughs, recent decades have seen an influx of young, post-suburban creatives, but it remains home to large Irish, Caribbean, Turkish, West African, Vietnamese and Haredi Jewish communities.
Culturally, it runs round the clock, clubbers fleeing marathon nights out as morning market traders gear up for days ahead. It’s a hub for fashion, art and dining, was hit badly by the 2011 UK riots and hosted much of the 2012 Olympics. It’s a place where myriad motives, agendas and lifestyles kick along together in a way that feels miraculously harmonious.
Here, we explore Hackney with photographer Nina Manandhar, meeting fashion designer Liam Hodges, entrepreneur Gynelle Leon and director and party promoter Akinola Davies Jr.

De Beauvoir Estate

Rising from the earth where west Hackney meets Islington, the five towers of the De Beauvoir Estate loom up towards 20 storeys, border guards decked out in Hackney council’s trademark amber livery by day, electrified ladders of light at night. As with so many of London's wards, De Beauvoir Town is home to a rich variation of residences – a few minutes’ walk north and you’re in £1 million-house land.

Places Nearby:

  • Ditto Press (Publishers)
  • The Macbeth (Venue)
  • Tramshed (Restaurant)
  • Duke of Wellington (Pub)
  • Smokey Tails (Restaurant)

CLR James Library

Not everyone’s into the regeneration of Dalston Junction, where luxury high-rise flats stand on the site of the old Labyrinth nightclub. Known as the Four Aces from the 60s to the 80s, it rebranded in the early 90s and became cradle and crucial outpost respectively of East London’s jungle and gay scenes. The library – named after the famous Afro-Trinidadian writer – has been modernised and doubled in size at its new location.

Places Nearby:

  • The Haggerston (Pub)
  • Brilliant Corners (Bar)
  • Mangal 1 (Restaurant)
  • Visions (Venue)
  • The Scolt Head (Pub)

Gillett Square

Skaters, vagabonds, dogs, elderly Rastas, road men and jazz heads all seem to use this square as a rallying point, and somehow no one ever seems to fall out. The home of NTS radio, Vortex bar and numerous food and drink stands, Gillett Square is kind of like Dalston in terrarium form, a distillation of the atmosphere that has turned it over the last two decades into London’s nightlife centre.

Places Nearby:

  • Cafe OTO (Venue)
  • NTS Radio (Radio Station)
  • Ruby's (Bar)
  • The Best Turkish Kebab (Restaurant)
  • The Spurstowe Arms (Pub)

Rio Cinema

A cinema so good it has a bus stop named after it, the Grade II-listed building is a random but welcome smudge of art deco on a street that over the years has been architecturally Frankensteined into a mutant-like chimera of different period styles. Boasting one solitary screen, the films on offer are more varied, ranging from arthouse up to blockbusters.

Places Nearby:

  • The Alibi (Bar)
  • The Shacklewell Arms (Pub)
  • The Bagel House (Restaurant)
  • Bardens Boudoir (Bar)
  • Rudie's (Restaurant)

Aziziye Mosque

Unusually for a mosque, this place used to be a martial arts sex cinema, but began its conversion in 1983 with funding from the UK Turkish Islamic Association. Situated in the brief A10 no man’s land between Dalston and Stoke Newington, the building – famous locally for the mosaics that adorn its exterior – is also home to a Halal butchers, weekend school, wedding hall and restaurant.

Places Nearby:

  • Clissold Park (Park)
  • Yucatan Bar (Bar)
  • Blondies (Bar)
  • L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele (Restaurant)
  • The Waiting Room (Venue)

Fellows Court

Opened in 1965, this Hoxton estate has fallen into disrepute over the years due to gangland violence carried out and inflicted upon the notorious Fellows Court Gang. Previously the home to a number of significantly more bougie Gothic villas, the area has quietened down more recently after focused gentrification, and remains just a few minutes’ walk from the Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Road.

Places Nearby:

  • Dishoom Shoreditch (Restaurant)
  • Sebright Arms (Pub)
  • 71a Gallery (Gallery)
  • Sông Quê Café (Restaurant)
  • Bad Sports (Bar)

Netil House

A short walk from London Fields, the people who transformed a previously derelict warehouse into what is now Netil House seem keen on creating a kind of vertical community within its walls. Not only is it home to a market, a gallery, the “Netil360” rooftop bar that has views all across the city and 94 creative studios, it also regularly puts on banging house and disco nights.

Places Nearby:

  • St John at Hackney Church (Venue)
  • Dark Arts Coffee (Coffee)
  • Oval Space (Venue)
  • Legs Restaurant (Restaurant)
  • London Fields Lido (Lido)

The Dorset Estate

Built by Modernist pioneers Skinner, Bailey and Lubetkin in the aftermath of the second world war, the Dorset Estate is a brace of Y-shaped blocks harbouring 11 storeys each. The blocks are named after the Tolpuddle Martyrs – the 19th century farm labourers who were shipped off to an Australian penal colony for essentially forming the prototypical trade union, an act for which they are revered by left wingers worldwide.

Places Nearby:

  • Dirty Bones Shoreditch (Restaurant)
  • The Royal Oak (Pub)
  • Columbia Road Flower Market (Market)
  • Campania (Restaurant)
  • Village Underground (Venue)

Peanut Factory Studio

No prizes for guessing what the Peanut Factory was in the old days of industry, it’s now the site of a photo studio and bike repair shop. More interesting to most will be its brief but not insignificant lifespan as a rave destination around the turn of the last decade, its big rooms leading out, via a precarious stairwell, onto the River Lea, the banks of which would throng regularly with the blitzed and worse-for-wear clad in absurd neon as the sun rose over the marshes.

Places Nearby:

  • Bloc (Venue)
  • The Adam & Eve (Pub)
  • Grow (Bar)
  • The White Building (Creative Space)
  • Stour Space (Creative Space)

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