Raw photographs of East London before gentrification took over
The East End of London, once an industrial working powerhouse of the country during the 19th-century, is now a more famously known for being a powerhouse of freelancers furiously engulfing cafe latte’s by the hour in Hackney’s ever-growing number of coffeehouses.
An area with a reputation made infamous by the Kray Twins and the underground organised crime that dominated the likes of Bethnal Green, Shoreditch Dalston, Stoke Newington which would stretch down as far as Peckham, is now swimming in rooftop bars, street-food markets and pop up shops.
Gentrification in the area has been so extreme that the next stage of this process is almost complete, house prices rise to an almost obscene amount as new high-rise luxury apartments dominate the skyline.
Photographer Neil Martinson, who has witnessed East London and—more prominently the Borough of Hackney—change drastically change since the 1970s, held an exhibition of his old images to offer a glimpse into the recent yet hugely transformative history of the area.
Martinson, born and raised in Hackney and the co-founder of the feminist-socialist collective ‘Hackney Flashers’ alongside Jo Spence, got involved with the Centerprise Bookshop and cultural centre on Kingsland High Street, Dalston and began a local movement of all people interested in culture.
The area was still battling the post-war clearance and local jobs were functioning heavily through factories and other hard labour. In his exhibition, held at Stour Space and entitled Another Time Another Place, Martinson remembers his home in a unique and captivating way.
“I called it ‘Another Time Another Place’ because I think Hackney has become another place,” he told the Gazette. “There’s been a bit of romance about what Hackney was like but at that time it was still recovering from the war,” he added.
“When I was a child I would play in bombed out buildings. You still had the fag end of slum clearance. I grew up in Clissold Road where Stoke Newington School is now, and that was all empty houses along the whole stretch. I went to Hackney Downs School and I was unusual in that I stayed in Hackney. If you wanted to be anyone or anywhere you wouldn’t stay in Hackney. It’s quite the opposite now.“
He added: “I have lots of photos of people at work, particularly in the tailoring industry – and that doesn’t exist now in Hackney.
“At one point, a third of all manufacturing in Hackney was tailoring. People used to make things, but now in Shoreditchthey make money out of thin air.”