When it comes to hip and happening London destinations, Dalston isn’t the most obvious choice. But a trip to the East London suburb proves otherwise; in the build up to the London 2012 Olympic Games, it’s all happening in E8.
“Don’t go back to Dalston.” So sang Johnny Borrell in 2004 and Razorlight’s front man wasn’t wrong: situated as it is between Stoke Newington and Shoreditch, ramshackle Dalston has long been a place on the way to somewhere else. Fast forward five years though and it’s all change in East London as those who have had enough of Hoxton and its rampant gentrification, are beginning to discover Dalston.
Case in point? Big name fashion designers Christopher Kane, Gareth Pugh and Marius Schwab have all set up shop in E8, music magazine The PIX is being edited from a Dalston basement while a brand new bar, Dalston Superstore, has arrived in the area. Even Prince Harry has been spotted living it large in East London and if it’s good enough for his Highness…
These newcomers join established E8’ers like Lightspeed Champion, Big Pink and Jack Penate, celebrated cinema The Rio – one of the few independent cinema’s left in London – legendary jazz club, The Vortex, and London’s best kept secret: underground club night, Disco Bloodbath, which serves up a monthly dose of disco, disco and yes more disco.
Nonetheless despite such developments, arguably it’s the people that really make Dalston pop. “Everyone’s surprisingly accepting,” says Dan Beaumont – the man behind both Disco Bloodbath and Dalston Superstore. It’s a stance shared by Dalston resident, Emma Longfield, 29: “[Dalston] feels like a mix of people and of worlds,” she says. “.You can walk down Kingsland Road in summer and feel like you are somewhere in Africa or Turkey”.
All the same, Dalston is still overlooked by a lot of Londoners as it can only be reached by bus or infrequent overland trains. Not for much longer: come June 2010, the East London tube Line will be up and running making Dalston infinitely more accessible. Our advice therefore is to go now and explore and enjoy E8 before over development hits.
Must see and do
Die hard Eastenders fans will want to make a pilgrimage to Fassett Square which supposedly inspired the long running BBC soap opera. Initially the producers wanted to film the series in E8, but decided instead to ‘recreate’ Fasset Square (aka Albert Square) on the set in Elstree, Borehamwood. Interestingly both Barbara Windsor who plays Peggy and Tony Holland (one of Eastenders’ original creators) at one time or other called E8 ‘home’.
No visit to E8 is complete without catching a flick at The Rio (107 Kingsland High Street, tel 020 7241 9410) – a fabulous independent cinema that shows new releases as well as classics. The much loved local cinema is also the place for quirky festivals such as the Spanish Film Festival, Kurdish Film Festival, Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and many more. To see what’s showing, visit www.riocinema.ndirect.co.uk. Meanwhile theatre aficionados will want to check out The Arcola Theatre (27 Arcola Street, tel 020 7 503 1646) where director Mehmet Ergen has been putting on innovative productions since the Millennium. See www.arcolatheatre.com.
We’re not going to mince words. If it’s fabulous fashion and footwear you’re after, forget it. However when it comes to food shopping, Dalston doesn’t disappoint. At the excellent Ridley Road market – a traditional London market if ever there was one – market sellers peddle meats, sweets, salted nuts, exotic fruit and veg and every tongue tingling spice under the sun. The market is open Mon-Sat from 8am-6pm.
One of Dalston’s strongest draws is its breathtaking array of eating options; visiting gourmands can fill their boots with every cuisine imaginable from vegetarian to Vietnamese. Standouts include Song Que (134 Kingsland Road) and Stone Cave (111 Kingsland High Street).
A trip to The Vortex should be high on everyone’s agenda. The former Stoke Newington Venue (The Vortex relocated to the Dalston Culture House in 2005) attracts musicians from the UK, USA and all over Europe. To find out what’s on and when call 020 7254 4097 or visit www.vortexjazz.co.uk.
When you’ve had your fill of jazz, make a beeline for Bardens Boudoir, The Prince George, or the Dalston Jazz Bar all of which boast a lively scene and a well stocked bar. Aim to end your evening at one of Dalston’s cutting edge underground clubs; you can find out more about E8’s infamous secret warehouse parties on www.myspace.com.