The buildings, which we have come to know as “the theatre”, are among the earliest ever built in the Lane and are listed by the Hackney Council as having special character and interest.
Despite of this, they want to demolish them. The reason? There is a state-of-the-art underground station planned to be built right next to it. Speculation in the area has rocketed, and it will continue to increase as the date of the actual building of the station approaches. Add to this the London Olympics to be celebrated down the road and you get most of the picture.
The local residents do not want a state-of-the-art business or commercial centre being built in the form of boxes, as the council has publicised in their flyers. These wishes of the local community have been ignored, silenced even, like when on that public council meeting where attendance by the public was in theory permitted, and the people who wanted to attend were denied entry.
When people are denied the right to influence the decisions of the “democratic” that are in theory representing them, and when they are met with police force when they are trying to make their voice heard, they are left with roughly two only possible paths.
One possible option is to turn to the courts and seek to make the public institutions at least respect their own laws and guidelines. The environmental & community action company, Organisation for Promotion of Environmental Needs Limited, OPEN, took this path. But one needs economical means for legal representation and advice, which is not available for free when a public building is threatened with demolition even against the will of the local residents. (definition of public was not that it belongs to the public, i.e. every one?)
The other option is to go and occupy the premises to avoid such demolition. This is what Everything4Everyone did.
We entered the building the night before the council squad was planning to enter the building to make the last preparations for demolition. They came on the morning morning, only to find that the theatre and adjacent buildings had been squatted. They did two things: they chased the squatters with their constructions tools until they had to escape to the roof, and they took us to court – but not to the county court where usually Interim Possession Orders are issued – they went to the High Court. The difference would have been that, if the court had accepted the case and we had resisted the eviction, we would have faced 6 months sentences. But the court didn't accept the case, and the council officers managed to book a slot in the county court for 2 days after this – a very unusual thing to get too.
In the meantime, we repaired the building we had secured, rebuilding the stair case that the council had destroyed in order to make the building uninhabitable, and other general repairs.
For two weeks one of us stayed on the roof of the Theatre, hoping to re-enter the building, but eventually we decided that it was better to concentrate in the daily and weekly activities. We have hosted Food Not Bombs events, where food is given out for free to passers by, guerrilla screenings at the square opposite, guerrilla gardening, samba band sessions on the streets, community film screenings... and, every Friday, we have been organising a cafe together with open mic sessions. People would just turn up with their instruments and mates and sign one after the other; some of them came from as far away as the USA...
And the final injunction that prevented the council from demolishing the buildings ran out. Dalston Theatre was never short of people bringing food or tools – I will never forget the couple that came one day. We were pretty suspicious – who are they? What do they want? They had never before been to a squat, they were curious about everything we had to say, and then they left. They said they would come back, but then every one says that... but back they came, after about half an hour. They were bringing with them lots of food, buckets, plates... I thought it was their personal shopping and wondered why they had stopped by with all that load. But it was all for us! They were things they had observed we needed and we were dramatically short of. Since we alerted the indymedia website of the imminent eviction, the response was massive, like every time an occupied social centre is under threat I guess. We had a special night of celebration on Friday 20 October beginning in the square opposite with activities for kids, a bike repair and a samba workshop, and ending inside the theatre itself with an open mic jam session and community cinema.
But then this morning at about 4.30am the cops came to evict us, and well, we had already decided to move on. In fact we had already decided to go an occupy another space back in January, when we lost the court case. So, see you in the next social centre...
We would like to remind people that resistance happens every day, not just with every eviction, not even with every occupation, in our everyday lives.
Gentrification has been going on in Hackney for many years now. Since the first service closures, the occupation of Atherden Road nursery... The parents of the children of this nursery occupied it after receiving a simple letter telling them not to bring their children the next day. They eventually abandoned the occupation with the promise that the nursery would be re-opened. It wasn't, it was all a lie - so local people squatted the nursery and kept the community centre open for about four months. This was only the first occupation against gentrification in Hackney.
Since then, the group Hackney not for Sale was created, and many more buildings, some former homes of council services, some local businesses, were squatted, and houses of auctions were picketed and even entered to make the sell-offs impossible, or at least difficult. On one occasion, one woman that attended to bid for one of the properties, refused to offer any money after hearing what the local residents had to say.
1860's – The railway first arrives in Dalston and the remaining houses in the terrace are cleared to clear the path.
After the railway's arrival, an open air circus used the cleared ground around the Georgian houses.
1886 - The building known today as Dalston Theatre is built.
1 November 1886 - The North London Colosseum and Amphitheatre open for its first season on. The new circus building can accommodate 4,000 spectators.
1898 - The building is converted to a Victorian variety theatre, seating just over 3,000 people.
1920 - with the advent of the cinema age, the building becomes the Dalston Picture House. Fortunes are
spent on the conversion.
1960s – the advent of television sees the closure of many of Dalston's 12 cinemas. It is time for the building to reinvent itself again.
1967 - the entrance buildings on Dalston Lane become 'The Club Four Aces' host to internationally renowned black musicians. Stevie Wonder, Desmond Decker, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Billy Ocean, Ben E King and many other international stars either perform or are guests here.
1970s - Home to Count Shelly and other reggae Sound Systems.
1977 - Hackney Council buys the buildings site for £1.8million from Tesco.
1990s – The main auditorium becomes the legendary drum and bass & Acid House club, The Labyrinth.
1995 - The Council declares the Gaumont Cinema suitable for redevelopment.
1997 - Hackney Council serves compulsory purchase notices to the theatre building's tenants and the occupiers of all the buildings are evicted.
1997 - The roof coverings are removed and rain begins to destroy the interior. This prevents the building from being listed by English Heritage, which would have made it very difficult to obtain permission for demolition.
1998 - The buildings are boarded up.
2004 - New plans are drawn to extend the East London Line up through Hackney to Dalston and to build a new bus station. The original station entrance is quietly concealed behind hoardings and demolished.
August 2005 - A Council surveyor who inspects the buildings 2005 is unable to show evidence of any of the allegations brought by a Council spokeswoman in order to justify the demolition of the Theatre, namely concerns about asbestos, squatters and drug users and that the buildings are structurally unsound.
Sometime between 18 October 2005 and 16 December 2005 - the Victorian houses at 4-6 Dalston Lane are deliberately damaged and made uninhabitable by the removal of the staircases.
24 November 2005 - Hackney Council posts a demolition notice on the 1886 Dalston Theatre and 1820’s “locally listed” Georgian buildings. The Notice states that the Council intends to demolish the buildings in “early 2006”. OPEN issues a judicial review application in the High Court which includs an injunction application to restrain Hackney Council from proceeding to demolish the buildings.
13 December 2005 - the High Court proceedings are issued and the Council accepts the need to make a full planning application for demolition.
6 February 2006 - the Council’s application for total demolition comes before a Planning Sub-Committee. Despite an overwhelming number of objections, the Planning Sub-Committee votes to demolish the buildings in their entirety, on condition that, prior to demolition, there must first be a survey to record historical structural and architectural detail of the buildings and expressed hope that the more notable elements could be relocated in the redevelopment of the site or elsewhere.
29 November 2005 - 34 Broadway Market, the premises of Franscesca’s Café, subsequently known as Tony's Cafe, are occupied in protest against ongoing corruption allegations and aggressive gentrification in Hackney. The café was due to be demolished at 8 in the morning of Monday 28 November to make way for luxury flats. (more info of this here: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/occupation-of-34-broadway-market-e8-info-and-updates?page=2)
20 December 2005 - A High Court injunction is issued preventing any demolition work until a judicial review which will take place in February.
21 December 2005 – Tony's cafe is evicted.
26 December 2005 – on Boxing Day Tony's cafe is reoccupied.
6 February 2006 The planning sub-committee meets to decide on the application to demolish the Dalston Theatre/Four Aces and adjoining buildings. Hackney Council's Planning Department have recommended that the buildings be demolished. Although the Committee are not obliged to follow their recommendation, they decide to vote for total demolition, disregarding the objections raised by heritage agencies, community groups, local market traders, businesses, arts groups and residents of Dalston, and acknowledge that Councillors have not been presented with any plans for what will replace the historic buildings. The decision is greeted by loud protest from the 60 members of the public who had succeeded in attending the meeting, despite the council’s confused attempts earlier in the evening to limit public entry to just half the public gallery’s usual capacity. 100 people had peacefully protested outside the Town Hall before the meeting started.
Sunday 19 February 2006 evening - the buildings are occupied by the group Everything 4 Everyone (name taken from the declaration of the Zapatista Encuentro in 1998)
Monday 20 February 2006 – Council workers, contractors and demolishers arrive early in the morning to start the preparations for the demolition.They proceeded to illegally enter the building. Banging on doors and destroying whatever is on their way, they chase the sqatters, who have to scape to the roof, and they stay there defending it.
Also, Tony's cafe is evicted again and the people behind it join forces with the Theatre.
Tuesday 21 February 2006 - High Court finds in favour of OPEN in its claim that Hackney Council, in late 2005, made an unlawful attempt to demolish the historic buildings at 4-14 Dalston Lane, without public consultation, and orders Hackney Council to pay up OPEN's legal costs.
Monday 27 February 2006 – The social centre opens and hosts multiple events until this date.
Wednesday 1 March 2006 the squatters are cited at the Royal Court of Justice on The Strand. The High Court rules that the application by Hackney Council for possession of the occupied theatre and buildings in Dalston should not have been made to the high court, and the judge refuses to rule on it..
Friday 3 March 2006. After being treated with utter contempt by the judge at Shoreditch County Court, the occupiers of Dalston Theatre are served with an interim possession order. Eviction can now happen at any time.
Monday 6 March 2006 - a woman is still living on the roof of the Theatre and the lower levels are guarded by paid security guards.
30 March 2006 A Hackney Council Planning Sub-Committee meets to vote on Transport for London's proposals for a massive private residential tower block development, which would use £10m of public funds but fail to provide any affordable housing. The proposals contravene requirements for large scale developments to allow a substantial percentage (50%) of affordable housing, as set out in Mayor of London/Greater London Authority’s ‘London Plan’, and in the Council’s own guidelines.
1 March OPEN will be holding a public meeting at 7pm Wednesday at St Marks Church Hall, Colvestone Crescent, E8.
We will be giving an update on OPEN's campaign in Dalston, the occupation of the Dalston Theatre and buildings, and the continuing demolition threat.
4 September - the Council grants planning permission to the London Development Agency to demolish Dalston Theatre and Georgian houses and redevelop the site with tower blocks. The Council claims that whether any of the historic buildings can be repaired and reused is irrelevant.
16 October 2006 – The current court injunction preventing its demolition runs out today and occupiers of the Theatre ask for help as they again face imminent eviction.
20 October 2006 – The bailiffs did not show up so the resistance goes on. Special cafe nights are scheduled; all are welcome as usual.
2 November 2006 - Bailiffs turn up at 4.30 in the morning and we are all out by 9. See you in the next occupied social centre!
throughout its entire history as a nightclub it was managed by newton who was forced to leave in early 1999 after fighting a long battle to keep the club open