Tuesday, 29 September 2015

100 years of black music in London - film festival this weekend

This weekend, 3rd & 4th October, sees a film festival celebrating the heritage of black music in London. Events take place at The Russett, Hackney Downs studios, Amhurst Terrace E8. Go to Sounds Like London Facebook page for more info. It's going to be packed!

One of the festival organisers is the brilliant young film maker, and OPEN member, Winstan Whitter. Winstan made the film "The Four Aces - a legacy in the dust" which will be screened on Sunday at 8pm. It documents the history of Dalston's Four Aces Club, which for 30 years was north London's legendary home to black music and a second home to black musicians. The club, housed in Dalston's old 1886 circus building, was demolished to make way for the Dalston Square development.

Winstan also worked with OPEN Dalston members to make the short film "Save Our Heritage" which tells the story of our local community's campaign to save something of Dalston's architectural and cultural history for future generations.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Haggerston Baths Campaign has called a public meeting

The Save Haggerston Pool campaign has called a public meeting and invited Council representatives to outline the "expressions of interest" which they have received from potential bidders for a 250 year lease of the Grade II Listed building.

The meeting is on Thursday 8th October at 7pm in the VLC Centre, Whiston Road E2 8BN, next door to Haggerston Baths. The proposals received will be on display to view from 6pm.

The meeting will be chaired by the Campaign and is the first opportunity for the public to question and debate the future of the Baths, with Hackney's Assistant Director of Property Services and its Cabinet Member for Health and Community Services, since the Council announced its intention to invite offers for Haggerston Baths last June.

The Baths have been closed for 15 years and the Victorian Society has warned that the building is seriously "at risk". We have reported on the plight of the Baths here. You can read the Save Haggerston Pool campaign's website here. You can see recent photos of the interior of  the Baths on Spitalfields Life here

You can also read about a recent visit to the Haggerston Baths by Iain Sinclair here

"It’s like breaking into an Egyptian tomb, labyrinthine corridors insinuate in every direction, stairs snake towards unfamiliar offices and storage spaces, into sinister chambers where utilitarian grey tubs, the remnants of the second-class female baths, look more suited to archive footage of cold-hosed lunatics. The swimming pool is drained and the three churchy windows towards which I used to swim, as through a flooded cathedral, in my laboured choppy crawl, before breaststroking back again, were covered over. The natural light that used to flood the high-ceilinged hangar is excluded, in favour of sanctioned entropy. Haggerston Baths is another of those decommissioned non-places kept in a persistent vegetative state, like the Gothic mass of the neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children in Hackney Road, until the right development package comes along. And meanwhile spiders knit their spectral nets. Shivering phantoms stand before empty mirrors in white-tiled washrooms where the taps leak coal dust."
"Swimming on the 52nd Floor" Iain Sinclair, London review of Books 

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Is Hackney Council selling our school childrens' sunlight to developers?

Evidence has been revealed that land next to Colvestone Primary School, which Hackney sold and is now owned by developers Chan and Eayrs, is subject to a restrictive covenant safeguarding "the right to uninterrupted and unheeded access of light and air" over the school's land. The covenant would have been known to the developers when they purchased the land.

Looking south from Colvestone School nursery's outdoor learning/playground space, for 60 kids under 6, as it is today.  There will be a three story blank wall, on its southern boundary, to replace the sunshine and the open aspect

Last Wednesday Council  officers recommended, and Hackney granted planning permission, for a three storey development on the school's southern boundary. It will deprive the nursery school's outdoor learning area/playground of most of its sunlight.

After the approved development this will be the view south from Colvestone School Nursery's outdoor learning/playground space 

"We believe that simple things like the natural light that fills a space and awakens your spirits...enriches life in a way that is priceless"  from Chan and Eayrs [the developers] website, But at the planning meeting the developers claimed that only an annual average of 2 hours per day of direct sunlight over half of the school childrens' outdoor space was sufficient. Planning permission was given using the Committee Chair's casting vote.

A request has been made to the Council to say whether it will protect the school's sunlight by using the restrictive covenant to stop the planned development.

It is unusual for a developer to invest large sums in a planning application for a development which can't be built, however restrictive covenants safeguarding sunlight can be removed by agreement between the landowners.

Is Hackney selling our school children's sunlight to the developers? (...or has it already done so? Ed.)

Chan and Eayrs [the developers] who have announced that their 'Herringbone House' Jude Street E8 development, marketed for £2.25million ( 4 bed/3 baths and sprinklings of antiquities), has been sold.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Hackney Planning Committee blights Dalston's nursery school

This evening, Hackney Planning Committee's chairman used his casting vote to approve a private development which will overshadow and blight Colvestone Primary School's nursery facilities.

The front entrance of Colvestone Primary School - a grade II Listed Building in the gothic style

Council officers and the developer recommended that only an average of 2 hours daily sunlight over 50% of the Nursery's open space was all that was required. Numerous local parents and children attended the planning meeting to support objectors' pleas to preserve the sunlight, but the Committee upheld the recommendations.

Looking south from Colvestone School nursery's outdoor designated  learning space as it is today . A three story blank wall on its southern boundary will replace the sunshine and the open aspect

After the approved development this will be the view south from Colvestone School Nursery's outdoor learning space 
“The design of the building has taken into account the sensitive nature of the building near school facilities, especially playgrounds. The rear wall is to be painted white to maximise light to the rear.
From Design and Access Statement Appendix II 5.4 June 2015 Chan and Eayrs (Developers)

The objectors were represented by Colvestone School's Head Teacher who stressed that the nursery's open space was a designated learning resource, not merely a playground, and that adequate sunlight was so important to the children's health, well being and education. A local resident objected that the developers's Sunlight Report was based on wrong information and its author had not even visited the site. Another local resident objected that the development would damage the setting of the Grade II listed building.

The new development will also compromise sunlight into the nursery's interior space

Colvestone Primary school is a Grade II Listed Building and an important landmark at the gateway to the St Marks Conservation Area. The Hackney Society, the local Conservation Area Advisory Committee and OPEN Dalston had all urged that the scheme be rejected because of the negative impact on local architectural heritage and because of overshadowing.

The objectors, who have no right of appeal to a Planning Inspector, are now considering whether they can fight this environmental injustice through the Courts.

An architect's drawing of the proposed development on Colvestone Nursery's southern boundary. The nursery will be confronted and enclosed by a three storey blank rear wall on its southern boundary obscuring the sunlight,

The developer's representative also pointed out that the '"studio flats of this unique building would be filled with natural light". So there's a comfort.

(Bling design trumps the sunlight of future generations of children. Ed.)


Thursday, 6 August 2015

Allpress Coffee Roastery in Dalston Lane - an exemplar of regeneration

After months hiding behind builders hoardings J S Gould's light industrial building, set in the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area, has now been revealed. Not as yet another block of private flats but as an exemplar of regeneration. Carefully designed, refurbished and fitted out, the former joinery workshops have been reinvented as the Allpress Espresso Coffee Roastery and Café

"We fell in love with this 1930s building and its history as a joinery where things were made by hand." said the new owner Tony Papas. "The building has great bones and it’s been exciting to bring back the utility of the original design again."

Imported green coffee beans are stored in elegant silos before roasting

The beans are air-roasted in computer controlled conditions.

And everything is powered from solar voltaic panels mounted on the original saw tooth roof

Roasted beans packed and ready for wholesale distribution

The roasting operations are fully visible from within the building which also has coffee blending and training areas, and large spaces for events and exhibitions.

And then there's the coffee bar and open plan kitchen/restaurant (Tony is a total foodie, so expect something very tasty. Ed.) 

"We have a unique use, we are bringing back the building to its original purpose and we have the opportunity for people to come and experience our working process and enjoy the end result. Freshly roasted coffee!"  Tony Papas

Monday, 3 August 2015

BBC Gardeners' Question Time at Dalston's Eastern Curve Garden

Last Monday BBC Gardeners' Question Time came to Dalston and recorded  its weekly show at the Eastern Curve Garden including answering questions from a live local audience. 

Eric Robson, Bob Flowerdew and James Wong with OPEN members Marie Murray and Brian Cumming who manage the Eastern Curve Garden

 The show will be broadcast  at 3pm on Friday 7th August, and repeated at 2pm on Sunday 9th, on Radio 4 FM. If you miss that you can always hear a replay on the BBC website

The BBCs request to broadcast from the Garden came after a recent visit, during the Chelsea Flower Show Fringe event, which the Garden has participated in for the last four years.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, shares a joke with Marie Murray on a recent visit.

 The BBC panel showed their wide ranging expertise by answering questions relating to gardening on balconies and fire escapes, the best plants for reducing city air pollution, music as an aid to gardening, the best herbs to top the Curve Garden's yummy pizzas, eradicating mildew ( Beware dry roots - Ed.) and the opportunities for snail farming.

The Eastern Curve Garden is Dalston's only community managed green space. It's a meeting place for people and plants where you can enjoy a huge range of activities for all ages whether you love plants and gardening, music, arts, crafts or just a relaxing with friends and family. What's more its got some of the tastiest food and drinks to rival any of the hippest cafes locally.

(Fancy making a sustainable, locally sourced, organic wood fired snail pizza.....anyone? Ed.)

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Time is running out to save Hackney's Grade II Listed Haggerston Baths for public benefit

Hackney has invited developers and others to lodge, by 19th June, "expressions of interest" in its Grade II listed Haggerston Baths. Included is the former 100' by 30' public swimming pool which controversially closed 15 years ago. Hackney's agents BNP Parisbas has described the offer of a 250 year lease as an "outstanding opportunity" in an increasingly desirable location.

The south facade of Haggerston Baths, with seperate entrances for men and women, in Whiston Road

The Wren Revival style building was designed by Alfred Cross and built for Shoreditch Borough Council in 1904 at a cost of £60,000.

Alfred Cross' original 1904 plans for Haggerston's Public Baths 

Internal modernisations were carried out in 1960 and it was Grade II Listed by English Heritage in 1988.

The western facade, in Swimmers Lane, with  its iconic chimney 

The Haggerston Baths were planned at a time of cholera and smallpox outbreaks locally when three families would share one house and "scarcely one" house had its own bath, It was hoped at the time that promoting cleanliness would also "raise the moral tone" of the working classes. The building had 1st and 2nd Class Slipper Baths, as well as a public laundry ,where the local residents could wash their clothes as well as themselves.

Opening day in 1904.The amphitheatre style raked seating was more recently removed.  

The pool hall, with its magnificent roof, was built both for swimming and as a public hall. Boxing matches, dances and other events were held there.

Internally, there are three original 28' Lancashire boilers in the basement but, following the 1960s modernisations, only the 2nd Class Women's slipper baths now remain ( Bring your own soap -Ed.).

The Save Haggerston Pool Campaign reported that as recently as May 2014 Hackney's Mayor Pipe stated "The problem with Haggerston Pool is not that it is about to be put up for sale, which it is not, rather that any owner is faced with finding in excess of £25million to invest in refurbishment, redevelopment of the west wing, and restoration of the pool and hall". Following the recent advertisement the Mayor stated "unfortunately, with ever- shrinking resources, we simply cannot prioritise this project. We will only consider working with an appropriate partner, such as someone who is prepared to use the building for the benefit of the community or to revitalise the local area".

Sadly. since the building was closed 15 years ago, it has suffered ongoing damage and vandalism. The Victorian Society has expressed concern that, unless investment is urgently made, the building could be lost for public use if not entirely. 

The Pool Hall as it appears today

The Save Haggerston Pool Campaign have called for a public meeting, to discuss the bids which Hackney have received and to consider whether adequate community benefit would be achieved by the redevelopment proposals.