Home Oral history interview with Anonymous

Oral history interview with Anonymous


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Production date

15/09/2010 - 16/09/2010

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Physical Description

Oral history interview with an Afro-Caribbean man, living in Dalston at the time of recording.

Born 1958 in Montserrat, they have lived in Hackney since arriving as a 6-year old, in 1964. Interviewee does not want their name or photo used.


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On display?



MAPPING THE CHANGE: Hackney Museum oral history project
Summary of interview:

Disc 1
Interview summary: Disc 1 [00:00:11] Introduction and coming straight to Hackney age 6 from West Indian home.
Disc 1 [00:00:55] 2012: Concerns about Marshes and concreted areas being returned to original state. Doesn’t expect legacy for the borough. Invitation to volunteer breaks promise of jobs. Broken promises of funds for arts & cultural involvement in ceremonies.
Disc 1 [00:03:36] First experiences in Hackney: Cold. Smog. Bus ride to shops with mum. Looking for mythical gold in streets – “when the fog had cleared, all I could see was snow”. [00:04:58] Good story of pleasant first experiences at Orchard Junior Mixed school (Well Street): Few other Afro-Caribbean kids in school. Novelties. Fussed over my kids and teachers – “Asking you if your colour washed off”.
Disc 1 [00:06:31] Good explanation of changes as more Afro-Caribbean kids arrived: Less of novelty. Teachers and indigenous kids not as welcoming, warm, probing… [00:07:28] Good story of racial tug of conscience in primary and secondary school: As top stream pupil with few other Black kids, White friends say “you’re just like one of us”. In playground are more Black kids - want him to join them. But he wants to play with friends in class. Feels that tug through secondary school. [00:08:42] Played with White Primary school friends out of school: Well Street Common, Victoria Park - eg ‘Knock Down Ginger’. [00:10:21] Only associated with Afro-Caribbean kids out of school, by end of Secondary school.
Disc 1 [00:11:30] Good stories of Blues clubs, Black dance venues and music scene: Teenager sneaking out to Blues clubs with Afro-Caribbean friends. [00:11:41] Days when few clubs meet Black demand – Reggae, etc. “The Afro-Caribbean community created their own clubs”. Sees two reasons: Few clubs. Houses hosting clubs made money to pay mortgage. [00:12:40] Good list of Blues club/ house party venues he knew: 4 houses in St Thomas’ Square. St Mark’s Rise and Sandringham Road. South end of Hackney – Cadogan Terrace. [00:13:34] Good explanation how homeowners rented basements to dances – dilapidated, not wrecks, being renovated. [00:14:17] Good explanation how (late 90s) Blues moved from houses to (semi) derelict properties – “Where they would break in for the evening, turn on the electricity and have the dance that way”
Disc 1 [00:15:02] Good explanation, Housing Action area policy a crime against West Indians and others: In Housing Action areas (compulsory purchase of slum housing by local authority) Black owners get deadline to bring homes up to standard. No help to renovate. Only offer: council purchase their run down house, family moves to new home in clean new estate plus modern amenities. Facing costly repair or new accommodation plus financial gain, most Black homeowners take money and move to estates. [00:16:40] Good explanation how and why Houses for Blues dances, purchased as Housing Action area, now worth £1-1.5 million in market today.
[00:17:24] Housing Action area policy strips assets from hard working, West Indian immigrants “I see that as a crime really”. [00:18:05] Hackney’s West Indians changed from home owners, to renters on council (sink) estates - eg Holly Street. “Snake blocks that went on for miles, you got in at one end and you didn’t see the sky or the street for half a mile down the road”
Disc 1 [00:19:22] Institutional racism by Hackney Housing Department: Holly Street Estate one of worst in borough, majority of tenants Black and ethnic minority – “These people found it impossible to get transfers, impossible to get repairs. And things went from bad to worse until it became a sink estate”. [00:20:04] Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) investigation finds Hackney Council housing allocations policy for Holly Street estate, racist “And found that Hackney Council was intentionally offering this estate to Black people over White people.” [00:20:40] After big council debate over compensation for tenants allocated sub-standard housing, council does nothing.
Disc 1 [00:21:44] Holly street estate demolished. Replaced by houses with gardens. Managed by social landlords – eg Newlon, Circle Thirty Three, Shian… [00:22:42] Promises for Holly street new community failing. High Crime, anti-social behaviour, complaints about landlords. Possible repeat sink estate.
Disc 1 [00:24:49] Blues club/ Black entrepreneurs:
4 Aces, Phoebes’, All Nations. [00:26:17] Good description of All Nations: Biggest, most popular… [00:26:33] Contrasts All Nations with other clubs. [00:27:11] Kingsland High Street’s other clubs
Disc 1 [00:27:32] Hackney heart of London’s Black entertainment industry.
Disc 1 [00:29:00] Problems and tensions for Black clubs and club-goers: Blacks on streets in numbers. Police. [00:29:28] Hard line police and authority attitude to Black clubs, clubbers and licensing - “Clubs found it very difficult to operate, or it was made very difficult for them to continue because of the attitude of the authorities” [00:31:23] Black clubs close as result. [00:31:28] Only remaining Black clubs: ‘Bar 512’, ‘Visions’.
Disc 1 [00:31:46] Now lots of clubs for White middle class: Nightly. Shoreditch to Church Street. Pavements crowded with clubbers. Liberal authority, press and residents attitudes and presence.
Disc 1 [00:34:20] Change to Hackney’s attractive new (young) social and recreation scene: Media sells for Broadway Market and London Fields like Chelsea. [00:36:42] Good description of change from dead Broadway Market and London Fields 10 years ago.
Disc 1 [00:39:39] Afro-Caribbean people suspicious about changes in Hackney: Now feel about changes, what White indigenous Hackney felt - “When we started coming in, in numbers, and changing their culture. You think is this Hackney? This is not the Hackney I knew”. [00:41:04] Good explanation of lost Black assets and services: Houses, Clubs… Lists struggling remaining Black-run community centres – “And again in the 80s every street had one. There was Heads in Stoke Newington, Hackney Council for Racial Equality, Hackney Ethnic Minority Monitoring Alliance”…

Disc 1 [00:44:36] Discrimination between suspended ethnic minority organization-members banned from sitting on any other committee after financial difficulty, and investigated White organization-members allowed to continue – eg. Hackney credit union. The Ocean in Mare Street.
Disc 1 [00:47:48] Good analysis of Afro-Caribbean immigrant community’s fortunes in Hackney: Came with nothing. Gained good range of services. Now most gone. “Even the supplementary schools that used to be there are now gone”.
Disc 1 [00:49:23] Concerned about Black children in primary school now – particularly Black Boys. Why he pushes Black parents to make their children strive for significant qualifications. [00:53:40] Example of own experience: Got semi-degree through apprenticeship – “I left school with a couple of A-Levels, but I know that if I’d had a degree it would have been a lot easier for me… (Employers) don’t have time to invest in kids the way that previous employers did”.
Disc 1 [00:57:09] (Black) young people today Lack drive and skill to make things happen for themselves: By contrast at 6 he made go-cart. Here parents buy. He and Afro-Caribbean kids made own entertainment. Black 14-18 year olds ran own clubs in church halls. Today can’t fathom Kids with internet, iPod… still say there’s nothing to do.
Disc 1 [01:01:06] In teenage, Black Boys learned wide range of skills by doing it themselves: Building speakers, amps, “DJ-ing with 3 records in a church hall”, sound competitions…

Disc 2
Interview Summary Disc 2 [00:00:12] Race relations in childhood: Primary school fussed over as something unusual, few Black kids play with White majority. By Secondary school companions changed – many more Afro-Caribbeans – only Black playmates out of school.
Disc 2 [00:02:39] Race Relations: First job draughtsman/structural engineer, White employers – Race no issue.
Disc 2 [00:07:27] Race Relations in housing: Good 1st hand description of living in ‘notorious’ Holly Street Estate. Bryar Court (last to be knocked down). White estate officer refused to repair leak in their flat. After struggle council repaired it.
Disc 2 [00:10:17] Race Relations in second job: racist encounter with White Housing Officer paid 3 times his salary prompts him to seek job in council. [00:10:34] Good story of job as Estate Manager in Hackney – Stamford Hill. Quickly aware of racism in workplace for first time: jobs withheld from Black staff, particularly managerial. [00:11:52] CRE report racist allocations policy at Holly street. [00:12:25] Council leader, Andrew Puddephatt forces Equal Opps in recruitment and training. Creates Race Relations Unit, .Dan Thea leader, puts ‘Race Advisors’ in all council departments – to address balance in interviews etc.
Disc 2 [00:13:51] Race Relations in council: White staff complain Race Relations policy discriminates against them. Battle between Whites and anyone associated with Race Relations Unit. Unions fail to resolve. [00:14:51] He was involved through UNISON/ NALGO Black Members Groups. [00:15:42] Council sheds Black staff by constant restructuring “So as fast as the Race Relations Unit was opening the door for Black workers, the organization was shoving them out the back door. So you never have a critical mass of Black workers within Hackney to make a difference”.
NALGP describes this as ‘ethnic cleansing’.
Disc 2 [00:16:55] Race Relations in council: workforce diversity now at early 90s level - “Anywhere the public interfaces with the organization, you’ll see Black faces”.
Disc 2 [00:19:00] Race relations in Hackney society: School days, White myth that being Black equaled being good at fighting. Whites schoolmates always trying to get him into fights with other Black boys.
Disc 2 [00:20:23] Good story of school/ gang rivalries between his Hackney mates and Mile End school/gangs: Not racial. Just Hackney school tribe. Bats, bludgeons and occasional knife to cut not stab. Not deadly or violence of today.
Disc 2 [00:22:44] Race Relations, awareness of SUS laws: Lots of friends being stopped a lot. He was always on street because no car – only stopped twice, mild encounters. [00:24:54] Death of Colin Roach in Stoke Newington Police station a big issue – big campaign. [00:25:18] Good contextualization of big campaigning after Colin Roach’s death then and relatively little Black response to Black on Black crime now.
Disc 2 [00:27:29] Race relations, experience within the Black community: Good explanations of former organisations serving diversity communities: Move to centralised multi-function equality department, cuts Race and Equality support to ethnic minorities. [00:30:31] Good explanation of very effective Hackney Race Equality Council: in old Dudley’s building opposite Centreprise. On death of leader funding cut.

Disc 2 [00:32:53] Church and Hackney’s Afro-Caribbean community: “I have a solid relationship with God, and a strange relationship with church”. Catholic in Caribbean. Then Methodist in UK. Now Anglican. [00:34:37] Good story of how Methodist church experience, like experience of West Indians coming to UK: “Some were welcoming, but quite a few weren’t”. Black Christians form own churches – front rooms etc. [00:35:58] Good story of first church, Methodist in Mare street, now Ocean: Defiant parents not put off. Church became ‘Black’ with White minister Mr. Newby – allowed them to run youth club. Home from home. [00:38:36] Good story of church after move to Holly Street estate: Black-dominated Methodist church on Richmond Road. [00:39:44] Good explanation change for churches is now mainly Black congregations. More and more Black ministers. “Back in the 60s you would not of seen that. Even if you had a large Black congregation…”
Disc 2 [00:45:52] Good stories of Ridley Road changes: Worked as (summer) ‘barrow boy in market. Fruit and veg stall. Saw other side. Got perks. [00:46:50] Good story of shopping in Ridley as West Indian social centre: walking in his mother’s wake as she strolled meeting and chatting with friends. Waiting outside her favourite supermarket, many West Indian parents inflicted the same “A row of downcast-looking boys shuffling from one foot to the other like penguins in the snow, lined up against the shop window… We were all waiting for our parents to finish their shopping so we could drag the baskets home” [00:49:51] All stalls run by White people then. Amazed Whites knew about Black food. Litter not dirty then. Dirty now. [00:51:40] Since late 90s shops and stalls run by Black and Asian entrepreneurs. Early years only Black entrepreneur ‘Dyke and Dryden’. [00:54:15] Brixton market: Lots of friends and peers go there “But Ridley’s enough for me”. Mum bought meat and veg in Ridley and tinned goods in Well Street.
Disc 2 [00:56:45] Childhood chores: Good story of buying paraffin. Pre-central heating days. Weekly Paraffin truck. Or shop in Well Street if they ran out.
Disc 2 [01:00:18] Childhood chores: Good explanation of helping mum with shopping Saturdays or Fridays – “Dad was always working”
Disc 2 [01:01:18] Changes along Kingsland High Street today: New Station good. More mobile phones. Only Falkners fish and chips. Knew 6-7 cinemas. [01:05:02] Good story of seeing Kung Fu films at Odeon with teenage Black friends – “Came out and everybody was Kung Fu fighting. Then you’d go to All Nations, ‘Kung Fu’ fighting would come on, and you’d do it all over again”. Kingsland High Street much same. A lot more fruit and veg stalls.
Disc 2 [01:11:46] Good observations of African immigrants: First noticed among All Nations crowd. girls joke about standard African chat up line “Have I seen you somewhere before? [01:14:37] African entrepreneurship – grocers, material, mobile phones - where Afro-Caribbeans happy to be consumers.
Disc 2 [01:18:37] Today’s Black gun and knife crime issue: formerly seen as Afro-Caribbean/Jamaican problem. Now facts show just as many African boys involved – victims and perpetrators.
Disc 2 [01:21:13] Good observation of late 90s shift where majority of Black council workers go from Caribbean to African. Generally in particular housing, income collection, housing benefits. Some Afro-Caribbeans feel pushed out by new arrivals. African workers mistrusted and dismissed.
Disc 2 [01:24:08] Biggest change he’s noticed in Hackney socially is gentrification by White middle class arrivals. And development of services and facilities for them.
Copy Material Location: WAV copies held at Hackney Museum:
1 copy stored on a portable hard drive
1 copy stored on a DVD-R (Gold Archive Standard)

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