This weekend EastLondonLines is at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival . If you want to follow the festival on Twitter, use the hashtag #SNLF2012, and keep checking back on this post for the latest reviews, updates and gossip as it comes!
At the Mascara Bar several writers are reading from ‘Acquired for Development by . . . A Hackney Anthology’ – a book of 25 writer’s various uique perspectives of Hackney touching on subjects from gentrification to supermarket sandwiches. Gavin James Bower read ‘Tara’, a short story which came to him after watching a man on a field outside his Dalston home lay out a towel and have sex with a prostitute. Siddhartha Bose also performed his poem ‘Wicklove’, which tells the story of his relationship with a ‘cinnamon girl with glasses and a mean-child tribal-smile at the Wicked festival’ in Hackney.
At the Library Gallery Dennis Morris discusses his new book ‘Growing Up Black’ with news presenter – and resident of Stoke Newington – George Alagiah. Dennis’ book evokes the Hackney of the 1960s-70s, and his striking images depict life for black people in the area during that the time.
He reveals his main influence as Bob Marley, who took him to photograph his tour when he was only 16. Dennis spoke of the challenge of meeting his ambition to be a photographer, in particular the questioning of those in his own community.Dennis commented on the change that has occured in the borough from the time the book documents on when, ‘everyone told you, get out of Hackney! Now everyone wants to live in Hackney!’
This afternoon’s debate at Abney Hall is on ‘Olympic Legacy’, focusing on the impact of regeneration on London and how social life could be transformed after the Games. Comic book author Laura Oldfield Ford speaks from her experience of how the Lea Valley and surrounding area has gradually been encroached upon by corporate influences, yet retains an optimistic outlook of people reclaiming urban and green spaces through subversion and contestation.
For author and essayist China Mieville meanwhile, the Games form part of a “totalitarian” vision of the city in which the public realm recedes to be replaced by controlled private spaces. The spiralling of the event’s costs is “predictable”, he says, while the media have largely failed to question the supposed economic benefits of the Legacy. The critical treatment is completed by local writer Iain Sinclair before comments from the floor go into more detail about the campaign to save Leyton Marsh and the role we all play in the gentrification of the East End.
In the Town Hall this evening, Simon Day from the Fast Show reads from his hilariously honest autobiography ‘Comedy and Error’. Simon recalled matter-of-fact tales of everything from wetting the bed as a child, to waking up to find himself robbed of his posessions after a trippy night taking magic mushrooms. Simon also confessed to flashing his cash after a surprisingly large pay check when working in a warehouse in New Cross, by treating himself to ‘a girls sheepskin coat, that fitted like a condom’.
The day’s headline act is one-time punk poet and bard of Salford, the inimitable John Cooper Clarke. By trade Clarke is officially a poet, but his stand-up routine is a mixture of anecdotes, one-liners and turns to the absurd, with quick-fired poetry peppered in between.
While Clarke is famous for his peculiar style, consisting of a strange mix of punk aesthetic and traditional northern comic, what really sets him apart is his verbal dexterity and turn of phrase and tonight his sardonic wit has everyone in stitches. In ‘Beasley Boulevard’, a wry comment on the reality of regeneration in his hometown, his vocal gymnastics stun the audience. The machine-gun delivery is a feat of breathing alone.
However, at times his gags border on discomforting. Despite mention of his Jewish and Irish heritage, his gags about these two groups feel borne of stereotype rather than subversion.
But overall this is only a footnote to what is otherwise a brilliant performance, capped off with the crowd favourite ‘Evidently Chickentown’. An expletive-strewn diatribe about life in a grim Northern town, blighted by the drudgery of violence, booze, rain and boredom, this is Clarke at his rasping and lyrical best.