Friday, 23 April 2010

I love Dalston

My friend Paul Flynn wrote an excellent and much quoted piece in the Guardian about Dalston back in April 2009 (below).  The Evening Standard quickly followed suit with a four page spread about the fabulous property and the 'coolness' of the area.  Vogue described Shoreditch as the new Soho and London Fields as the new Primrose Hill.  It's definitely not there yet, but it is a brilliant place to live.

This is what people think it's like

The Guardian, April 2009

Long dismissed as a fading east London suburb with a chaotic daily market, a strip of cheap Turkish restaurants and a rudimentary relationship with street hygiene, Dalston E8 now finds itself the unlikely owner of Britain's coolest postcode. It's roll call of fashion habitués read like a Who's Who of past and present design figureheads - Christopher Kane, Gareth Pugh and Marios Schwab have set up shop there, while old guard visionaries Pam Hogg, Terry De Havilland and Jimmy Choo are frequently out and about.

Dalston nightlife has been blessed with a series of pop-up club nights and crumbling 80's nightspots; Passions, Blushes, Visions and Passing Clouds.  Wander round at 11pm and the feeling is not dissimilar to being in the lower east side of Manhattan at it's mid-90's peak.

Dalston has it's own music magazine, the Pix, edited from a basement in the Bootstrap, an EU funded created enterprise that also rents space to Pugh and the artist Matthew Stone, while pop stars Lightspeed Champion, Jack Penate and Big Pink all operate from corners of E8.

Unlike Hoxton - the East End enclave that last drew in London's up-and-coming creatives - Dalston has always been a vibrant place, thanks to it's Afro-Caribbean and Turkish communities.  "There was already a night-time street culture here.  Throwing another demographic at it hasn't hurt it says Dan Beaumont, who has run London's most feted monthly club night, Disco Bloodbath in the area and has just swung open the doors of a new bar unapologetically named the Dalston Superstore.  "Everyone's surprisingly accepting," he adds.

After the opening of posh members' club Shoreditch House and Terence Conran's Boundary Hotel in nearby Shoreditch, Beaumont felt the shift eastwards and followed his nose to Dalston.  "Not everyone wants to drink fancy cocktails on roof terraces," he notes - and there's certainly a local lunacy to the area that has so far escaped the gentrifiers sweeping across London's other less celebrated suburbs.

"You can walk down the road and see everything from Pam Hogg squeezing a melon in Ridley Road market to a man wearing a sack preaching to the traffic lights, says Hanna Hanra, editor of the Pix.  "Everything is possible.  It's a fabulous, optimistic place."

Hanra thinks E8 is unquestionably the best postcode in London.  "For architectural beauty, cleanliness, road safety and trying to walk at a normal pace down the pavement, definitely not.  For being somewhere exciting, absolutely."

Written by Paul Flynn for the Guardian, April 2009

My house - a typical Victorian semi.  I bought it because it's looks like a proper house. And I could get twice as much for my money here compared to Islington or Clerkenwell where I was originally looking to buy.

When I moved here in 1997, Dalston had a terrible reputation.  Black taxis refused to go there.  A couple unbelievably drove off when I told them where I wanted to go so I had to be clever if I wanted to get home.  I used to lie and say I was going to Islington.  Then I'd have to make an imaginary telephone call (usually to my own answer phone!).  I'd say to my imaginary caller within earshot of the driver "Oh you're there are you! No, I'm sure the cab won't mind as it's only up the road etc." The cab would then have no choice but to take me.  The things I had to do just to get home!

There used to be two hideous twenty-two-storey concrete tower blocks at the end of my street.  Known in the area as 'the crack block' and 'the smack block'. People would often 'fall off' the top floor.  Thankfully in 2000 the council called on Fred Dibnah in who filled them with dynamite and blew them up.  It was made into a little documentary for the BBC.  They evacuated all the nearby houses in case it went wrong and they didn't implode.  My best friend and I had been out drinking all night so we slept through the police banging on the door to get us out.  I woke to hear the siren and the most almighty noise I've ever heard, I swear the whole house shook with the force of the explosion and my bed moved across the room.  We both jumped out of bed ran into the street which was white with dust and both tower blocks were just piles of rubble.

Hackney Council suddenly realised what they were sitting on; Shoreditch had just taken off and we were next.  They made the whole of London Fields into a conservation area and the gentrification of Dalston began.  It's a mile from the City of London, the Gherkin looms large from the top of my street.  Islington is five minutes away and so is Hoxton and Shoreditch.  The artists, fashion designers and city boys quickly moved in to the wide tree lined streets with beautiful (mostly Victorian with a little bit of Georgian) architecture.  The houses are solidly built with high ceilings and big airy rooms and fantastic sized gardens.  The Victorians really knew how to build houses.

When my house was built in 1854 all the materials would have come on a barge along the Regents Canal then delivered by horse and cart.  Each semi-detached house would have taken up to two years to build.  They built them properly in those days with huge windows and front and back gardens. They have wonderful details; marble fireplaces, shutters, huge skirtings and ornate cornicing.  Not like now! I can't bear all these new builds with poky little windows, laminate floors and tiny little skirtings.  Why? with all our knowledge, machinery and money.

The area I live in is called London Fields and it is in Dalston.  Dalston Kingsland where the station is right on the outskirts of Dalston.  If you look on old maps this is where the main part of Dalston is.  It's much more beautiful than most people think and there are loads of fantastic old houses being lovingly restored, people are replacing all the features that were ripped out when they became unfashionable in the Seventies. I think it's a tragedy that all those beautiful things hand made by craftsmen ended up on skips.

I can't walk down the street without bumping into someone I know.  I have some brilliant neighbours, some are like family (Dani, Russ, Frances and Reo) and there is a real community spirit here. Loads of my best friends are minutes away, Giles Deacon, Hazel Robinson, Stuart Vevers, Josephine Butler, Caz Loncq and Simon Kunz, Paddy and Amelia Lyndon Stanford, Princess Julia, James Jeanette, Annie Wilshaw, Jessica Aspinall, Abena Robinson, Pam Hogg, Lulu Kennedy, Duncan Western and Jenny Lewis, Jeremy Lee, Richard Sloan, C J and Damon Martin, the list goes on.  I'm delighted that my good friends, the fabulous Mr John Hassay (who's finally seen the sense in coming East) and Lizzy Davidsen will be moving here this month too.  Lee McQueen used to live at the top of the road before he let his house and rented in Mayfair.

Lots of people have heard of the area because of this book

From the pictures I've taken below it all looks so civilised but I have spent many a night (and day) in clubs, houses and warehouse parties with banging techno in the years I've lived here. There's much more happening in the East End than any other area of London.  The club scene is thriving.  I'm getting a bit old for too much of that now!

I have made it sound perfect, it's not.  Burglary is rife.  I have been burgled five times, thankfully everything has been replaceable.  One time we stupidly left the back door unlocked when we were in bed and woke up to find all the laptops, iPod and cameras gone.  One Christmas I came home from a party to find a man in my sitting room.  Luckily he was more shocked than me and jumped out of the window soon after I'd spoken to him.  A police van and car arrived within thirty seconds.  Hence everyone now has lots of security, bars and burglar alarms.  I was going to have razor wire put all around my garden fence but I feared for the neigbours cats!  Can you imagine?  That wouldn't be a good look.  There's crime everywhere you go in London so what can you do?

We finally have a tube opening.  It's unnatractively called Haggerston, The Actor thinks it sounds rather grand but I'm not keen on the word 'Hag'.  Boris Johnson will open it in May.  Not that I've actually been on a tube for fourteen years!  Yes, fourteen years.

The only downside with all the publicity is the house prices have gone through the roof.  Apparently only Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster and Hackney have not dropped in price which I find astounding.  My house has quadrupled in value since I bought it.  I could never afford to buy it now.  I worked out I'd have to earn £150,000 a year to buy it which is ridiculous.

Apologies in advance for this post being sooo long.

My photo diary of this afternoon

As it's a beautiful sunny day I'm off for a stroll so I'm going to take you on a little tour of my part of Dalston and show you some of the good bits.

It's so peaceful where all the houses are around the park then down the road is Broadway Market which runs from London Fields to Regents Canal.  It's always bustling with people sitting outside the many cafes and pubs. There are lots of great places to eat and drink.  I love architecture so I'm going to post the random pictures I've taken on my walk.  I've taken a lot of houses, there's everything from Georgian cottages to Victorian gothic.

Walk from my front door around the block

This used to be the local pub which backs onto my garden, it's been converted into a beautiful house

This cottage could be anywhere in the country

Grand old Victorian villas

Onto the garden square behind my house

The garden square.  There's loads of squirrels that Alfie the Victorian bulldog I used to look after loved to chase.  Luckily he never caught any.

Beautiful early Victorian houses in the square

The gardener looks after it very well

 I love these houses

There's lots of different styles of house in the square

Another magnolia tree already shedding it's flowers

The streets are so quiet and there's loads of parking

Two minutes from my house is London Fields, made more famous by Martin Amis' book

People having picnics in the sun on a lazy Friday afternoon

London Fields was first recorded in 1540 and there are 31 acres of parkland remaining. It has a pub, imaginatively named Pub in the Park, tennis courts, a Lido, two childrens play areas, cycle paths, BMX tracks and table tennis.

Broadway Market.  The Cat and Mutton is owned by my friend Kevin who has restored it.  It's packed every evening and all weekend.  He also owns another pub around the corner called The London Fields which is equally busy.

Off Broadway is a great little bar

It looks lovely in the evening when they light loads of candles

The fishmonger is excellent

They even give you recipe suggestions

The film shop has everything, including lots of hard to find titles and is great for arthouse films and World cinema

La Bouche, fab deli, great food and great coffee.  Nearly everyone in the area has a bicycle.  It's like living in Cambridge.

The deli is always busy

A new pizza place, they do a lovely Tiramisu and espresso

The hairdressers even has a great building

MacBlack and Vine - they sell furniture and wine.  An unusual combination.

The local florist

This is a great bookshop, there are three on Broadway Market, all excellent.

They get hold of some really special books

I could spend hours in here!

And the pie and mash shop.  It is the East End after all.  Pie, mash, liquor with tons of salt, pepper and vinegar.  The perfect hangover cure.  And they deliver free.

There's also a butcher, lots of little shops and boutiques, an Argentinian steakhouse, a tapas bar, a British cafe, Veggie cafe and my favourite bakers.  On a Saturday there's an organic farmer's market which is fantastic.  I'll have to blog that another time.

Then back past London Fields again

Another pretty house.  You can hail a black cab in the street now.  How times have changed.

These houses were wrecks.  They've been beautifully restored into family houses again.

Another great house that hasn't been turned into flats

A bit of Victorian gothic

And we're nearly at...

My favourite pub

Which used to be all flock wallpaper and lino with a bit of carpet at the back. It's also been beautifully restored, it was a crack pub called the Lady Diana before.  The owners gave it back it's original name from when it was built in 1861, Prince Arthur after Queen Victoria's son.

The food is fantastic.  Today's specials; beef wellington with dauphinoise potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli, fish pie or toad in the hole with red onion gravy.  They'll all be amazing.

And wonderful Bloody Mary's.  My favourite - a meal in a glass.

Then off to the London Fields lido for a spot of synchronised swimming. 
Er, NOT!



Wildernesschic said...

Christina what a great post... I love the houses where you like, I love your house.. I am howling laughing at you sleeping in when the Tower blocks came down..
London is unique and I love to visit ... different life I could happily live there. Too used to the wilderness now.. I love that you have everything on your doorstep and in the sunshine it stunning.
Lucky girl and what a lovely tribute to your manor :)
Ps also love the black cab story too :)

Dash said...

Oh Christina, this post is making me so nostalgic for London, I am going to have to go and get a London fix soon.

I must admit I don't know Dalston except to drive through, but it looks seriously cool. I do know Islington I have friends who used to live in Stoke Newington, they have now gravitated to Islington. It must be so satisfying for you to witness Dalston coming up and transforming. your house and surroundings are beautiful.

I love the way my London friends, who live in different parts of London are all so fiercely proud of the areas in which they live. It just goes to show you that London is a series of beautiful villages and community spirit is very much alive.

Sarah @ Natural History said...

What a fantastic post - I live in Oxford and don't get into London terribly often, so I don't know Dalston at all and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the houses! Nothing like that here in Oxford - lots of red-brick Victorian cottages, but nothing in that villa style.

Christina Lindsay said...

Dear Ruth, I knew you'd like them. I have more stories but the post was getting so long I didn't want to put everyone to sleep! You must come and stay next time you're in town xx

Dear Dash, you must! You should go to Broadway Market on a Saturday when the organic farmers market is on. And Sunday lunch at the Prince Arthur or the Royal Oak on Columbia Road (upstairs in the restaurant, early booking essential), the food is fantastic. It's lovely to see a run down area regenerated, especially when it has such great architecture. It also has some hideous architecture on the high street but once the tube opens a lot of that will change, then the Pret a Manger and Starbucks will take over. Yes you're so right London is a series of villages. Dalston is getting very like Islington now with a slightly more mental energy! xx

Dear Sarah, thank you! I'm so glad you love them. I was slightly worried I'd overdone the house pictures but to anyone with an eye for details they are all so different. Love your blog by the way xx

Brian said...

just stumbled across your blog and it's good to see you love our neighbourhood but a couple of things - the original Dalston village was at the junction of Dalston Lane, Ridley Road and Cecilia Road (originally called Love Lane) where the 3 Compasses pub is. where the new station is was originally Kingsland, as a recognition of this the shopping centre was renamed Kingsland Centre from Dalston Cross a few years back. But it seems like anywhere from Hoxton to Stoke Newington is now Dalston anyway! Also, Martin Amis's book London Fields is set in west London, I don't think there is any reference to Dalston though I did read it a few years back and didn't think it wax very good at the time. If you haven't read Patrick Wright's book "a journey through ruins" it has some Dalston background - the first part about Dalston Lane is particularly good.

Christina Lindsay said...

Dear Brian, I did look at a couple of very old maps a while ago and quite a few of the roads have changed names now. My street was originally called something else but the deeds of my house says it's in Dalston, although technically I'm right on top of London Fields. Martin Amis's book has served to make the name London Fields familiar to a lot of people and yes, you're right it's set mostly in West London where he's from. I will try and get hold of a copy of Patrick's book, that sounds really interesting. Thank you xx

Jane said...

Oh, what a fabulous post. It makes me so want to be back in London. A million years ago I had a boyfriend who lived in Dalston. I'm from New Zealand and at the time was living in Soho. Going to his flat was the first time I'd been to East London. I think times have changed! I remember noticing the houses and thinking how gorgeous they'd look if only they were cared for. So there you go, when I eventually get back to London I know I'll be checking out your neighbourhood!

little augury said...

a charming jaunt,pgt

Mari said...

I didn't get to this part of London on any visit flying out of Atlanta but next time definitely! You have made me want to come check it out.

Daniel-Halifax said...

Sold! I'm moving in next week!

Christina Lindsay said...

Dear Daniel, after seeing the beautiful cottage you posted I thought the architecture would be your bag. Let me know when you're coming! xx

Emily said...

Wow! That is a fantastic glimpse into London Fields and Dalston. I went to that pub Cat & Mutton as well! great palce and so is the other pub, London Fields. I can see how some see it as the new Primrose Hill. It's so quirky and fab! Thanks for your lovely comment at mine! Your photographs are great. I love how you've really captured the mood of the neighborhood. x LZ

Dalston People said...

What a great blog post! You have captured all the wonderful parts of Dalston and managed to list all of my favourite places too! I only discovered the Prince Arthur the other week but love it already!

AP said...

shhhh! It's supposed to be a secret!

I love the Arthur ;)

Anonymous said...

it's full of crime

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear AP, I recently wrote about my favourite restaurant in Dalston and now it's almost impossible to get a table! I should shut up! xx

Dear Anon, I have said that if you read it. So is Chelsea. Show me a part of London that isn't xx

Anonymous said...

It makes me sick to my back teeth reading middle class sloanes like you foppishly endorse an area without any real insight into the place, it's true history and what it represents to the community at large. I have trawled through your various posts and observed your mediocre photography documenting the interiors of various gastro pubs which you coat with faux-praise. You totally disregard the fact that these pubs and this area has mutated into this middle class monstrousity because of people like YOU and the money and ignorance that you bring into this areas. You really would like to believe that you are situated in some epicentre of cool and think that the future of art, fashion and cuture rotates on a tight axis which eminates a few centimeters away from the over-considered comments that spout from your very arsehole. Have you recently just move up the road from Shoreditch because that area seemed a bit 'too obvious' for you? I ABSOLUTELY HATE YOU AND EVERYTHING YOY REPRESENT! You make me sick and I hope you enjoy rimming Nathan Barley!!! Twat!

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear Anon, firstly you could have left a comment in person, but hey.

If you read the first bit of the post properly you would get a better grasp of what I am trying to say. I am not a sloane by any stretch. I lived in Shoreditch in 1993 and had NO money. It was not at all trendy. I moved to Dalston in 1997 and bought at the lowest price and it was one of the least trendy areas of London. I couldn't even get a black cab to take mme home in the middle of the night. OK so I got a mortgage but I've struggled to pay it for the last 14 years. Again I have NO money.

You're right my photography is shit. I make no bones about that. I haven't even read my camera manual so I have no idea how to use it.

You don't know me and I'm totally honest about what I see, that's all. I can't help that the pubs have turned into gastro pubs but I'm not going to not go in them to make a stance, why would I?

Nathan Barley was a parody of everything I DON'T represent. If you ever met me you would know that.

Thanks for you comment all the same.

Lara said...

I have just moved from (Ravey Street then Curtain Road,then Kinglsand Road (twice) then Victoria Park, then) Bloomsbury now Cotswolds and love your post about one of the most amazing multicultural architecturally beautiful and flavoursome parts of London. I have spent a wyhile on your blog tonight and I thank you for what I have seen.

David Moynihan said...

Love this blog post. Why don't you post any more?! Great blog. Thank you.

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