Residents were left bewildered when smoke appeared in Gillett Square early on Thursday evening (23 November) and a number of reports on Twitter suggested that there may have been a fire or social disorder in the area. People were also seen hanging posters printed with “2023” around Central Dalston.
There had been very little promotion of the event named #burntheshard, restricted to 99 hand-picked volunteers. The secrecy lead to the initial confusion as residents were unsure what was going on.
One of the “99”, Vicky Pea, explained that “2023” was referring to a new novel by KLF, a 90s music band, who famously burned £1 million cash on a remote Scottish island.
“2023 is a narrative in which in which one of the characters wishes to burn down the Shard…the character in question lives in Dalston,” she told the Hackney Post.
“After finding out through social media [we knew] very little” before it started, she said. “All we were given was a postcode and told that it would take place between 7pm and 11:23 pm.”
“It was just an evening of fun, expression, confusion and a way to engage 99 people with the novel in a very unique way. For the more cynical, it was just a way to advertise new products”.
Ro Rai, owner of the Metro Retro, had no idea that the event was planned. “I was closing up my shop at around 9pm when I smelled acrid smoke. I thought that our electrics had short circuited.”
“[When I went outside] I saw a very large crowd. There was someone shouting through a megaphone and someone else had plastered a poster to the side of our shop”.