The Battle of Kingsland Road - by Paul Case

[This is a story from our first book, Acquired for Development By. In light of the Fuckparade protest thing and everyone getting their knickers in a twist about gentrification and the battle for space in the city, we thought we'd post Paul Case's now rather prescient satire on this sort of thing.]

 

Excerpt from the pamphlet Retrospective Study of The Battle of Kingsland Road by Anonymous, p. 7, date unknown, publisher unknown

 

Just over a mile of traffic-choked concrete vein runs through Hackney, connecting two beating hearts of former mutual disdain. The North heart is called Stoke Newington, its beat slowly pulling in the lifeless Islington migrants east in search of fresh roots. Attracted by an itch to free themselves from the ties and prejudices of the middle class, then be soothed by a sensual scratch of underground chic. To them, it wasn’t a London to be snapped through a camera lens and taken back to the provinces. It was a London hard and cold to touch, the air an invigorating smog. The teachers, the doctors, the businessmen, the youth mentors, the independent artists, the freelancers seeped in. The self-propped and the academic. Self-consciously dusty spines of Chomsky, Vidal and Sinclair snugged on antiquing bookcases. Red wine and spliff work wind-downs, cocaine smeared mirror weekend nights, dinner debates, hot, bored affairs. Rising rents.

Gleaming white paninis (smoothly bragging organic) began to nestle awkwardly against the artificial red, blue and white Americanisms of the Dixy Chickens, with their steaming brightness and their cheaply, deeply fried poultry. The pubs upped price. The indie rock leak from their speakers forming a cloud of sound that shadowed the estates and the tattered, homeless punks. There was surprisingly little tension between the new arrivals and the echoed concrete shouts, just a slow fading until only the well trained and newly bright remained.

You turn to face south. In the distance, The City’s grey haze looms, the relic Gherkin centrepiece looming over the impenetrable Gucci banknote blur at its feet. You walk towards it, never to it, down Stoke Newington Road, to arrive at the border of Dalston Junction. Here, transparent high rise flats preside over Dalston’s sprinkled, cramped trendy bars and Turkish coffee houses...

You walk just under a mile south to the next border. Shoreditch: formerly a crumpled slum, much like Stoke Newington, hollowed warehouses piled high, cramming in sweatshop workers and squatters. Whispered danger zones, blank blowjobs in alleyways, market traders. This enticed the film makers, the T-shirt designers, the drum ‘n’ bass producers who rapidly filled every space with exhibitions and the mangled electrics of blank grey laptops. Tossed wraps, with grained shards of MDMA stubbornly clinging, swept with the breeze.

A rainbow scene gestated. Skilled in absorbing rhetoric punchiness and regurgitating gaudy clenches of style. The fetishising of the nothing. Ostensibly the polar opposite to Stoke Newington’s pseudo-intellectual liberal-left, it fashioned empty anti-capitalism and emptier offence. Pioneering extravagance. Between these borders, The No Man’s Land of The Battle. The choked vein. Kingsland Road. Afro-Caribbean hairdressers, bargain shoe shops with gaudy bright orange signs, subterranean Nigerian restaurants... This was the focus, the unexploded gunpowder keg...

For the new arrivals on either side of The Battle, it represented empty space to be coloured in. Primed to stamp their own locality brand, they began to charge. Things were going to change. One way or the other.

 

***

 

Manifesto of Stoke Newington’s Rising Dawn, published in their online blog, web address not found.

 

STOKE NEWINGTON BROTHERS AND SISTERS

For too long, “gentrification” has been used in the pejorative sense. A word that describes the takeover and self-centred modification of underprivileged areas by the wealthy. We, Stoke Newington’s Rising Dawn, are here to reclaim gentrification: not just as a word, but as a force. A force of righteousness.

Our growth thus far has been exponential; a natural, positive and peaceful movement. We have only the improvement of society at heart. But there are those who wish to stop us for their own self-serving ends. Brothers and sisters, we are under attack. Under attack from anarchist and leftist groups, with their glorification of poverty and philistinism, as if living comfortably and having a diverse range of arts somehow negatively impacts on Hackney.

More pertinently, however, we are under attack from the pretentiously (and erroneously) named Hoxton Liberation Army. They are our antithesis. Whereas we bring vibrancy into culturally undernourished areas, they bring garish, repellent fashion and meaningless language. Whereas we bring a pride in liberal, progressive ideals, they bring drunken arrogance in the form of the apolitical. They have transformed Shoreditch into a deafening blast of vacuousness, and now they have their sights set on Kingsland Road.

Kingsland Road is a strip of cultural nothing, ripe for colouring in. We need to stake a claim in this area, plant our flag with pride and joy before the Hoxton Liberation Army can plant theirs. If they get to Kingsland Road before us, they’ll use it as just another cool, meaninglessly post-modern hang-out.

In short, the Hoxton Liberation Army wish to destroy everything we stand for.

Is this what our forefathers fought for? For the world to be sucked into the vacuum of anti-culture? For the torch-bearers of intellectual society to succumb to the likes of the Hoxton Liberation Army?

The politicians are useless to us. We must fight for Kingsland Road with our own steel. Fashionable pacifism has become redundant. We are willing to take up arms in this culture war, and die for our birth right. We must stand in solidarity against the enemy or everything we have worked for will be lost forever.

Kingsland Road must be ours.

Join the struggle.

Join Stoke Newington’s Rising Dawn.

Signed,

Comandante Fisher

 

***

 

A letter to Shoreditch-based Grip Magazine, issue 4, 02.11.20XX

 

Honestly, what is wrong with these Stokeys? Don’t they get that we’ll win this? Clearly not. Because apparently they must have Kingsland Road. It’s their “birthright”. Oh, hang on, was that a quote? Yes, and fresh from their overwrought, pompous online “manifesto” (read: wannabe literati rant). Basically, it spends all its time ranting at us, with all the sweeping, ill-conceived generalisations you’d expect from bleeding hearted, sexually repressed liberals. It criticises us for having no culture. No culture? What’d you call the hundreds of pubs, clubs, bars, warehouse parties and squat parties in Shoreditch? The thousands of artists, exhibitions, dancers, DJs, musicians, promoters, producers and film makers? That is culture. So what if we steal things from other places? We just have no respect for artistic boundaries. We want to expand and progress! The Stoke Newington folk brag on and on about their “culture”, and how we should all love and respect it blah blah blah. Yeah, I really wanna be part of a “culture” where you debate about books you haven’t read over red wine and midtempo indie. Dead-end existence or what? Who wants Kingsland Road taken over by these self-satisfied cretins?

These cretins have also been responsible for the assassinations that have taken place in Hoxton Square. Only the other day, I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when BOOM – this snappily dressed lady and her toddler get their heads blown off by a sniper. Great eh? At least we have the balls to get face to face. What about the fight at Haggerston Station last Tuesday? We baited them coming out, and kept at them with the crowbars until the cops came. Three dead, didn’t the papers say? Damn straight. The only good Stokey is a dead Stokey. And what about when we caught Henry Mallick trying to nailbomb the Cathouse Club? Or James Gordon? Or when we sprung loads of HLA members out of the Manor Road concentration camp?

We’re coming out all guns blazing. We aren’t the revolution. We are revolution, and when we’ve won Kingsland Road, we’ll win Stoke Newington too, and beyond.

Militant regards,

 

HLA

 

P.S. P.H.A.T present DJ Skunk, Spastic Holocaust + MC Mao @The Cathouse Club, 8pm – 6am. £10 entry, all proceeds go to HLA. Who’s coming?

 

***

 

Memo leaked from MI5, 07.11.20XX

 

…The purpose of this new initiative is to discredit, sabotage and expose the two main opposing movements in the so-called Battle of Kingsland Road – Stoke Newington’s Rising Dawn and Hoxton Liberation Army. We should focus on every aspect of their organisation – their leadership, their administration, their supporters and spokespeople – in order to neutralise them. We must follow them on a continual basis and exploit internal disputes and personal conflicts at every opportunity. Capitalising upon these is necessary in order expose them to the public as a dangerous threat. Attempts at recruitment must be frustrated.

Co-operation with local governments and local media is essential, as they have the strongest links to the public. Through these institutions, we can control the information being imparted to the public. Every opportunity to ridicule and deride these groups through establishing these links should be taken advantage of.

The long-range goals of this initiative are:

  1. Prevent coalitions between militant groups. We need to emphasise the political differences between these groups and exploit them in order to keep the revolutionary movement fractured.
  1. Prevent violence on the part of these militant groups. Any potential troublemakers should be neutralised immediately.
  1. Prevent the rise of figureheads within these movements, as they promote unification, martyrdom and a focus for revolutionary ideologies. It is cautioned that the nature of this endeavour should under no circumstances be discussed outside of MI5, and that all necessary security measures are taken...

 

***

 

A transcript detailing an exchange between alleged member of the Rising Dawn Brian Horley (32) and Rhys Jones (19), a member of Hackney Downs-based gang, E5 Boys. Rhys Jones was asked by unidentified agents to record the transaction in return for the deletion of his criminal record. Transcript taken 11.11.20XX

 

BH: Rhys?

RJ: Who’s askin’?

BH: I’m Brian... I was asked to come and meet you for... the transaction.

RJ: Transaction?

BH: I... we... need... well, you should know...

RJ: What?

BH: Look, we need... guns.

RJ: Why you askin’ me?

BH: I was asked to meet you here.

RJ: You’re not feds are you?

BH: Feds? Oh, um, you mean police...

RJ: Yeah. Feds. Are you or aren’t you?

BH: Um, no, I’m not.

RJ: Let’s see the coin.

BH: Coin? I...

RJ: The money, show me the money you pussy’ole. I gotta talk like you now?

BH: No, of course not. I have the utmost respect for you, er, people. It’s in my briefcase.

RJ: Show me round ‘ere.

BH: Alright. There.

RJ: That’s a lot fam. You mans’ serious.

BH: Yes, we are.

RJ: A’ight. Get in the car.

 

 ***

 

An open letter to MI5 and the police, published in Grip Magazine and The Stoke Newington - Liberation Army Coalition blog dated 17.11.20XX

 

Dear X,

This is a brief letter to say one thing: your attempts to penetrate our movements have been pathetic and obvious. Typical divide and rule. Regent’s Canal? Our “comrade” who turned up, face down in the water, left with only one eye and six fingers? That was just a warning. We can tell who’s who. Any other infiltrators will be similarly punished.

The Battle of Kingsland Road was between Stoke Newington’s Rising Dawn and the Hoxton Liberation Army. And now, thanks to your interference, our fight is with you. Because of your actions, your unwillingness to allow our fight to continue without your interference, we have now come to a truce. Enemy’s enemy is our friend and all that. We have agreed what to do with Kingsland Road, and it is none of your business. And now we have turned on you. This is your opportunity to back off and leave Kingsland Road to us. If you don’t, we cannot be held responsible for the bloodshed you will cause.

Sincerely,

Stoke Newington’s Rising Dawn – HLA Coalition

 

***

 

Excerpt from the pamphlet Retrospective Study of The Battle of Kingsland Road by Anonymous, p. 10, date unknown, publisher unknown

 

Late November, 20XX. The bars of Gillett Square had transformed into shelter, then into bunkers, finally settling as splintered, shattered, dead rubble. From the scattered newspaper reports, the hysterical eyewitness statements, the propagandistic pornography issued by all sides, the information we garner is this: at around 4pm, the sun high, bright and cold, there was a secret truce meeting. Police snipers ordered to open fire, get rid of this nuisance once and for all, a return to normality via clipped skulls. Armed police charged the building. Fire returned. It lasted two days.

Two days of smashed glass and bone.

Two days of clashed arteries and slashed silences.

Two days of trapped citizens moaning, helpless and unhelped, legs pinned under the bricks of collateral damage.

Two days of meddling, melding, morphing politics.

Two days of flustered, disabled, useless news.

Two days reductively termed rioting.

Two days of things...

… ‘things’, a word we use when we simply don’t know what we should be focussing on. ‘Things’ are changed/are changing/are going to change. ‘Things’ are going back to how they used to be, after the uniformed/non-uniformed, broken bodies are cleared away, another buried chapter in history’s graveyard, don’t worry about it, it wasn’t real as such, the violence is now cleared, everyone got it out of their system, just a bunch of rich kids kicking off, just the collective psychopathology that underpins the structure of our society erupting into tribal conflict, nothing to worry about. Forget it.

 

***

 

An email from scriptwriter Graham Irons to Claire Spence, head of Hallmark Films, sent 06.05.20XX.

 

Dear Claire,

Thank you so much for your quick response to my original email, and for your enthusiasm. As requested, please find attached a sample of my screenplay for Kingsland Road: A Battle for Freedom. I feel last year’s events in Hackney would be perfect for cinematic retelling. It has everything full-blooded cinema requires.

For example, it has perfect heroes in the form of the leaders of the Rising Dawn and Hoxton Liberation Army. Whilst at war against each other, a mutual, begrudging respect begins to grow which, by the end of the film, has turned into a lifelong friendship. The screenplay shows that, whilst The Battle of Kingsland Road was indeed a real battle, it was first and foremost a battle of the heart. This is emphasised by the love interest Mary Kelly (get the East London link???), the beautiful prostitute who represents the poor and needy, and is forced to realise that the affluent freedom fighters really do know what is best for her community. Kingsland Road has romance, full-blooded action, conflict and resolution.

Obviously, some aspects of the real battle must be excised for the sake of narrative. The torture and murder committed by both groups and the police, for example, confuses the ethics and will present too complicated a tale for mainstream audiences. Likewise, the attempts of local communities and anarchist groups to protest against the Kingsland Road takeover should not be included. But I feel these are minor details which we can afford to exclude in favour of the bigger picture – the bigger picture being a beautiful story of love, loss, duty, forgiveness and, finally, freedom from oppression.

I see the film as Battlefield Earth meets Secrets and Lies, as directed by Spike Lee.

What do you think?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Graham

 

***

 

Excerpt from the pamphlet Retrospective Study of The Battle of Kingsland Road by Anonymous, p. 34, date unknown, publisher unknown

 

The postscript is never-ending, constantly tumbling. Prominent members of the Hoxton Liberation Army and the Rising Dawn found in bathtubs. Dark, dank red, water and speckled white walls. Rumoured informer, Rhys, feet dangling in his bedroom. His mother constantly campaigns, often alone, outside Stoke Newington Police Station.

Cold machine-gun police now stride Kingsland Road constantly, patrolling the borders, severing the vein between the two hearts. Stop- and-searches on anyone looking vaguely white, vaguely middle class, vaguely affluent. If you’re not guilty you’ve got nothing to hide. Hunched shoppers scurry, eyes down, thick fog hanging over them. Stiffened populace. Ignore the CCTV and FIT, the blank history-less newspapers. The more you ignore, the greater the chances things will return to normal. The dead are dead. You are alive. Be grateful they’ve spared you.