In Praise of Hackney

My daughter was sharing a house (built in a gap left by the Blitz) in Notting Hill on the west side of London. The house was sold, one after another her friends moved on until on my daughter was left. One could do worse, even if the boiler did keep breaking down. The sale fell through, she hung on some more.

Eventually though she moved clear across London to Hackney, a more affordable borough, not lacking in its own history, with lots of brick and grungy facades and non-posh accents. Tracts of Hackney were bombed during WW2; postwar a lot of public (“Council”) Housing went up in guise of urban renewal and filled with a diverse population trickling, maybe pouring, into England from the Empire the sun was setting on, and lots of native British, too, in addition to those for whom Hackney had long been home.

Decades later, Hackney is gentrifying, but it’s still diverse, it’s cool. The original tenants are there, many of them, raising families in public housing, whose units can, since Thatcher, now be sold on the open market. A more recent immigration of young people from Europe and elsewhere in the UK and Ireland is moving in. For better or for worse Hackney is gentrifying. There are galleries, bookstores, markets; there’s Regents Canal with locks and boats, its tow path for bikes and jogging. Brexit, which London strongly rejected, may slow the gentrification.