boycott Hackney Council


I wish I bloody could, don’t you? I haven’t even written about all the stuff that’s going on in Dalston, I can’t get my head around it and I’m not down there that often these days. It’s hard to keep up, I just know it’s a civic death. I’ve been shocked, shocked, shocked. And not enough of an activist, I know, because there are not enough hours in a day or frankly enough idling cells in my brain. In short: I’m at capacity.

I also have to apologise, because many years ago a girl with a clipboard asked me “What one thing would help Dalston the most?” I quipped, “Tear it down and start over.” It never occurred to me they’d DO it. Or that they’d start by wrecking the nice bits, the Georgian buildings and old cinemas and music halls, completely ruin the human scale of the place, eradicate all trace of history.

And now THIS!

Our lovely picture. Our lovely street.

The Hackney Gazette:

The council refuses to differentiate between street art and graffiti.

Cllr Alan Laing, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said: “The council’s position is not to make a judgement call on whether graffiti is art or not. Our task is to keep Hackney’s streets clean.

“This cleanliness is judged by the government on a number of factors including levels of graffiti.”

Then again, the neighbour in the Gazette article praises the building owner for not having “cashed in” and covered the picture with perspex, but left it for us to enjoy. Hm. I’m sure it was more about the cost of the perspex, plus that all-too-human belief that what is there will continue to be there. Given what we all know Hackney Council is like – the devil incarnate – it seems that was a silly assumption.

Wait! Was the neighbour in the Gazette my friend Kris?? (I find it unlikely that my friend, who is sharper than sharp, would have been that fuzzy. And indeed, read her blog post on the subject.) See, this is what happens, I had people staying last weekend and then I’ve been away with no internet or phone signal since Monday. So that’s why I hadn’t seen this thing – and yesterday it was in the Guardian, which I also missed, and I’ll just quote them because they link to Kris’ blog.

It’s all too poignant. Here:

A Stoke Newington blogger known only as Kris broke the news of the artwork’s removal.

She reported that council workers said they had told their employers about the importance of the artwork. “We knew it was a Banksy, love. It’s a Stoke Newington landmark; we know that. We told them, but they wouldn’t listen,” wrote Kris.

So what I want to know is, who exactly is the King Cnut who ordered this work to be carried out?

This insistence on not distinguishing between tagging and pictures, between things people find depressing and what amuses them and makes them happy, is wilful stupidity. This categorising instead of living. Call me naive, but I thought that even in today’s inclusive culture we still valued intelligence a little bit. (I know. How stupid was I.)

It’s like driving anywhere and trying to have a conversation or play music with the Sat Nav on, & it keeps interrupting you. But you NEED the Sat Nav because it saves you from the speed cameras. It’s like trying to read or talk or think on a train or in a station, with those announcements played every 30 seconds so loud they hurt your ears. You must never feel at peace in your surroundings. Every sensation must be informative, “effective” and – above all – managed.

But you know, these people who run departments. They are normal middle class people, they’ve been to school and have kids and houses and all the rest. They go to the theatre. They know that there are criteria in life, and even that – shock! – some people have different priorities from them. I think they actually destroy things because they’re nice. They’re just jealous that people still have some talent or creativity in this world. The petty little councillors and jobsworth head of departments are just jealous that history and art and other people happened at all, without their petty little mandate.

Banksy is one of the best things to have happened to this city in the past couple of decades. I really mean that. Okay, he got big and went and did stupid things in LA, but he’s no Damien Hirst. He made pictures that ordinary people could love. He has wit and humanity and a very fecund visual imagination. He offered people little glimpses of their own world in refreshing new ways. He said, in effect, “I know how hard it is living here: here is a picture to make you aware that we are all in it together. Please have a nicer day because of this moment.” It is generosity, and it is art. (The fact that you don’t have to be a graffiti acifionado to like them is further proof of this generosity.)

The thing is, and I’m apologise because this isn’t going to sound very fecking politically correct, but while it is possible to be a good person, or even a nice person, to be the salt of the earth and all that, and be uneducated – or whatever – it isn’t that easy if you’re as thick as pigshit. Because, without the wherewithal to make valid distinctions between things, you just go around doing bad things.

It’s like Tower Hamlets – the council that even now tries to rest on whatever draggled laurels remain from its 50-year-ago public art policy – when they tore down Rachel Whiteread’s House in Mile End Park.

Arseholes. I really hate them. Here it is now:


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