Credit: Nicksarebi on Flickr
Hackney was deemed one of the 100 best places to live in Britain this week, eight years after it was labelled amongst the country’s worst.
This comes as a huge improvement for the borough which was slammed in 2006 by Channel 4’s The Best and Worst Places to Live in Britain, despite the fact it only just edged in – ranking 100 out of 101 in The Sunday Times’ list.
“Its diversity is the best thing about it,” said Yarden, a 25-year-old student from Dalston, “the fact that you have people from everywhere next to incredible pop-up shops. It’s a really nice mix of old and new”.
“I can’t think of a single place bad thing to say about it”, said James, a 40-year-old working in marketing, “When I first moved here it was very run down, but the Olympics really spurred Hackney Council to sort out the infrastructure.”
Victoria Park, London Fields and Chatsworth Road were all singled out for praise and Hackney was hailed as the “go-to” destination for the middle-classes.
But not everyone believes it has changed for the better. “I preferred it when I was growing up here as a teenager in the seventies,” said Les, a Ridley Road market trader, “It’s too overpopulated now. It’s a different clientele of people. It used to be all cockneys, and they’ve all moved out now.
“The market’s still the best thing about it. It’s busy, and you can have a laugh. You’re out in the open, and you see all the faces that you know walk by.”
Annette, a teaching assistant from Dalston, agreed. “I hate the popular conception that it’s so wonderful. The place is wonderful, but the people who run it are not.
“I’ve been here for 30 years, and we were promised new houses. But we’ve been given new houses with walls so thin that you can hear people walking down the stairs next door.
“I had a wonderful 3-bedroom maisonette that Hackney Council tore down. Now my walls are paper thin, and I can hear my neighbour go to the toilet.”
Even the fans see room for improvement. “I love it here, and I’ve grown up in Hackney,” says 57-year-old Ayesha, arm-in-arm with her 73-year-old husband Peter. “But negatives come with gentrification. House prices have become silly money, and our own children can’t afford to live here. It’s just not Hackney, and it breaks up the community.”