As the East End becomes gentrified and ‘trendified’, the parks are cleaner, the shops more ’boutiquey’ and the people younger. London Fields, affectionately known to locals as the catwalk, is a particular weekend treat. Every sunny weekend BBQs, bikes with baskets of flowers, babies and beer flourish in the green and tree lined spaces. Complemented by the lido and Broadway Market, London Fields has fast established itself as the place to be.
The families, the fashionistas and the fun that create the festival atmosphere in London Fields was ripped apart when a gang of teenagers chose to shoot each other at half past three on a blistering hot Saturday afternoon.
Hackney is home to some of the worst housing in the country. Slums. Families squashed into tiny houses, damp riddled, stacked up like criminals in estates full of drugs, intimidation and fear. The women try to keep clean, the fathers try to stay clean and the kids run around like toy soldiers marking their small bits of territory with drugs, guns and violence. They put the edge in Hackney.
And there we all are: the gentrified middle classes with our picnics, summer hats, beer and buggies. On display, flashing our comfortable, easy-going weekend lifestyles for all to see.
So the ‘kidz’ decided to remind us THEY ARE HERE! And who can blame them. Their parents are being defeated by generation upon generation of poverty, escaping from war zones, beaten by the system, drowning in smack, crack, alcohol, junk food and trash tv. But their children have still got the anger of untapped potential burning in their hearts. They protect what they do have, and what they have is territory. Where are the pubs, clubs, cafes, gyms and park equivalents for them?
We expect them to stay hidden, keep their ugly poverty away from out rose-tinted Ray Bans. It’s time we woke up, heard their cries for attention, listened to their anger and gave them something of their own. Hackney is taking a deep breath. This could be one long, hot summer, folks.
Note: the views expressed in comment pieces are not necessarily those of the Hackney Citizen.
The ‘culture clash’ at east London Fields (BBC news London, Saturday 29 May 2010)
London Fields shooting likened to Los Angeles gang wars (Guardian, Friday 28 May 2010)
Letter: There is no ghetto of the rich in Hackney (Guardian, Tuesday 1 June 2010)