September 22, 2012
Some city councils, like Chicago’s, deal with corruption and bribery scandals while others, say the Bronx, have had to cope with sexual harassment by elected officials. 

This is Hackney and welcome to Buntingate. How many heads will roll?

Some city councils, like Chicago’s, deal with corruption and bribery scandals while others, say the Bronx, have had to cope with sexual harassment by elected officials.

This is Hackney and welcome to Buntingate. How many heads will roll?

12:56pm  |   URL:
Filed under: i 
September 20, 2012
An ode to the 73

Besides Hasid hipsters, Hackney’s most overlooked subculture are Goths. Sure, there’s that place on Stoke Newington High Street, downstairs from the bizarre shop that sells foods that look straight out of the Jetson’s, that hosts Goth parties from time to time. But when was the last time you heard Sisters of Mercy blaring from the wilds of Abney Park Cemetery at 2 am, not quite drowning out the squawks of pigeons being ritually sacrificed?

Hackney wasn’t always a de facto Goth-free zone. The borough was once home to original Goths (OGs) like Mary Wollstonecraft (who died giving birth to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. She is that Goth) and Edgar Allen Poe. The American poet - born in Boston, died in Baltimore - spent his tween years in Stoke Newington, which he described as:

a dream like and spirit soothing place, that venerable old town.  At this moment, I fancy, I feel the refreshing chilliness of its deeply-shadowed avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew with undefinable delight, at the deep hollow note of the church-bell, breaking, each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the fretted gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep.

Obviously, not much has changed.

Some sources will tell you that the 73 bus line (best bus route in London 1995-1996) started running in 1914 and didn’t become the main public transport conduit to Stoke-Newington until decades later. They are wrong. SYMTH has uncovered a long lost poem, written by a 10-year-old Edgar Allen Poe, which we publish here.

I stood inert on Church Street at half past nine today

Coveting the art in the new gallery across the way


And just as my desire turned to outright art envy

My saviour arrived to take me away – the number 73!


Or was it? O, how my heart sank

I had mistaken the charabanc.

It was the plodding 476,

For those who need their Euston fix


But if you work in Soho

It’s as redundant as a Dodo.


I nipped across to Whole Foods dejected and alone

To buy a cappuccino and have a little moan

And just as I walked in the store and paused to ogle some woks

The 73 whizzed past the window, quick as a snooty fox.   


My luck was out today, and I was going to be late

The magazine wouldn’t edit itself and fashion never waits.


So out onto the street I rushed, foam spilling from my cup

And found, dismayed, that there had been a fixy bike pileup –


No injuries had been sustained to anything but pride

Unless you count the Mohawk on the guy on the left hand side


I took a picture of him, with his flock of seagulls flopped

And then I noticed – thank you Lord! – the 73 had stopped.


I nipped across the road and heard the haircut owner cuss

But he had got back on his bike – and I was on the bus.

September 19, 2012
Stoke-Newington: Hackney for beginners?

We’re still finding our footing here at SYMTH and experimenting with different formats to best serve Hackneophytes. Questions have started to come in via #SoYouveMovedToHackney, and we wanted to take a minute to answer one.

@YummyCanonburyMummy Dear #SoYouveMovedToHackney Am Hackney-curious but not ready to commit. What about ‘Stokie’ S of Church, W of High St 8-)

Stoke-Newington - new town in the wood - has been settled for thousands of years. The earliest archaeological records suggest that neolithic axe-makers established a kind of pop-up workshop there. That’s as far as I got into the Wikipedia entry on Stoke-Newington’s history, but I’m pretty sure that you can’t buy axes on Church Street anymore. Too practical.

You can, however, purchase just about anything for toddlers and infants, from hand-knit nappies to hand-blown glass dummies to cashmere onesies (Autumn is upon us). A new home furnishing shop opens every third Tuesday (next month YRT brings steppe-chic to Stokey). If your partner has always wanted to dress like a dandy lumberjack, he’s in luck because The Importance of Being Ernest Hemingway opens just in time for Christmas.

Stoke-Newington isn’t all vintage flannel and heirloom breed quail eggs, though. Whole Foods Market (motto: even smaller than you think) runs out of quail eggs all the time, and their queue often runs into the beetroot infusions aisle. It can be difficult to find a decent vegan meal on Church Street (see Editor’s note), but you’re in luck if you’ve got 30 quid to spend on a rack of lamb.

But to answer your actual question, @YummyCanonburyMummy, Yes. Stoke Newington is Hackney for beginners. It’s a good purgatory before you double down and move to Hackney Central, with its restaurants that don’t yet take credit cards, or Dalston, home of the rat-shish. And if you get spooked, you can always run screaming back to Newington Green. At least they know how to make a proper Spanish tortilla.

*Editor’s note: I have absolutely nothing but nice, earnest things to say about Rasa. I love the place more than hemp-seed milk.

Image via R Garbett under Creative Commons

6:20am  |   URL:
Filed under: Yurts Posers Quail Eggs Stokey 
September 18, 2012
"I don’t sell rats, I never sell rats, I don’t sell rats. I don’t have any rats, why you come to video me?"

The manager of Great Expectations food market in Dalston, after a BBC researcher asked about two Ghanaian rats purchased there. A BBC investigation revealed widespread rat meat sales at shops and butchers on Ridley Road Market, Dalston.

Don’t let the rat sales or the shanty town look turn you off on Ridley Road, though. It may the the only place in the city where you can buy a mesh t-shirt, bush meat and wood-fired oven pizza - except, of course, Brixton Market.

September 18, 2012

Q: Why does everyone in Hackney wear backpacks that look like they are meant for schoolchildren?

A: No fucking clue.

Image via kenty_

September 17, 2012

You may have noticed that many Hackneyites wear big earmuffs everywhere they walk or bicycle no matter the season. They are actually headphones that block out traffic noise, emergency vehicles, pretty much all ambient sound.

Many will undoubtedly been listening to Riff Raff, #BEEN #TRILL, or whatever shit they’re playing at the Jazz Bar.

But I hope that some of them are bumping this mesmerizing podcast/app from the Hackney Podcast. It’s essentially a self-directed audio tour of London Fields that plays sound snippets based on your location. It’s reminiscent of the audio tours that Janet Cardiff and George Miller have been doing for more than 15 years, only less escapist and artsy fartsy.

Just remember to take off your Beats by Dre before starting the Lido sequence.

September 17, 2012
On U-locks

So you’ve bought a fixed-gear bicycle (fixie) with 100 mm handlebars, no brakes and deep-dish rims, and you want to secure it outside of the Dove. Forget about that cable lock twisted around the seat of your Ridgeback commuter. Get thee to the nearest bicycle cafe and purchase a mini-U-lock. Don’t worry if the lock is too small to secure your frame to anything wider than a chain-link fence (nevermind your £300 wheelset).What’s important is that you can stuff the lock into the back pocket or your skinny cut-off shorts. It’s going to hurt, but as they say in the Shacklewell bike polo league: “No pain, no game.”

Tomorrow on SYMTH: Tweed, wtf?

Image via Richard Masoner

September 17, 2012
London Fields

Q: How do I get to London Fields?

A: You’re on your bike, right? Good. Follow the guy on the fixie – yep, that’s the one, with the Bambi tattoo – down Kingsland High Road until you count three separate instances of people wearing two hats at once. Turn left immediately and proceed eastward until the high-waisted denim short density becomes greater than 10 pairs per square kilometre. Did you pick up any Magners? Ah. Go back to the High Street and buy some. Safely install it in your wicker pannier/canvas tote [delete as appropriate]. The friends you are meeting are practicing their hula-hoop technique near the Lido. A visit to London Fields Brewery would be so last week – instead suggest you pop round to your mate’s squat in a former artist’s studio overlooking the train line, where he knits his own beer. 

Image via Laura May under Creative Commons

September 17, 2012
What is a pop-up?

Q: I’ve heard restaurants, art galleries, shops and even toilets described as ‘pop-ups’. What is a pop-up?

A: From the Greek term for ‘half-assed’, a pop-up is a temporary structure or institution that typically sells over-priced goods of questionable value. Pop-ups are almost always fully booked by the time you hear about them.

Q: I’ve managed to secure a booking to pop-up restaurant. How should I prepare?

A: Congratulations! Acquiring a pop-up restaurant booking is a Hackney badge of honour. Before you attend, take some time to familiarize yourself with local farms, food purveyors and foragers. That way you can fluently ask whether the host is serving Lea River trout or Cedric’s wild nettles.

Q: I attended a pop-up dinner and the food was cold, the chairs were uncomfortable, and the other guests spent the whole night taking Instagram pictures of their food and posting to Twitter instead of talking. Is that typical?

A. Yes. If you want hot food, comfortable seating and interesting conversation, move back to Lewisham.

Q. Do you have any advice for starting my own pop-up?

A. Call whatever you’re doing a pop-up and charge for it. If anyone calls, it closed yesterday. Tell no one. A Time Out write-up would be pop-up suicide.

Image via tiaragwin under Creative Commons

September 17, 2012

A seed commonly used in lieu of rice in neighbourhoods such as Stoke Newington, London Fields and parts of Dalston. Many Hackney residents will tell you they fell in love with quinoa when they were following Che Guevera’s motorcycle trip around South America, and that western demand has made the staple too expensive for many poor families there. They will also tell you that it is high in protein and has a low glycemic index, whatever that is. But, mostly, it tastes of dirt. See video for correct pronounciation.

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