London Clay: River Lea Walking Tour with Tom Chivers and Siddhartha Bose

September 19 @ 2:00 pm 4:00 pm BST


Join author Tom Chivers and poet Siddhartha Bose for a unique walking tour exploring the River Lea’s deep history

We’re thrilled to be hosting a special event to celebrate the arrival of Tom Chivers’ new book, LONDON CLAY: JOURNEYS IN THE DEEP CITY! Spend the afternoon of Sunday 19 September strolling along the River Lea with us as Tom leads a tour exploring the deep history of one of London’s most iconic waterways. Tom will be joined by poet Siddhartha Bose for what promises to be an unforgettable insight into the river’s historic depths.

About the Walk

We will meet at Hackney Marshes Pavilion (E5 0DH) at 2pm for a walk we expect to last between 2 and 2.5 hours. We intend the pace to be comfortable for most walkers, and will provide more specific route information as well as an anticipated end point shortly before the event. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like more information regarding the walk and it’s terrain, or any other details connected with the event.

About the Book

What secrets lie beneath a city?

Tom Chivers follows hidden pathways, explores lost islands and uncovers the geological mysteries that burst up through the pavement and bubble to the surface of our streets. From Roman ruins to a submerged playhouse, from an abandoned Tube station to underground rivers, Chivers leads us on a journey into the depths of the city he loves.

A lyrical interrogation of a capital city, a landscape and our connection to place, LONDON CLAY celebrates urban edgelands: in-between spaces where the natural world and the metropolis collide. Through a combination of historical research, vivid reportage and personal memoir, it will transform how you see London, and cities everywhere.

Copies of LONDON CLAY are available to buy with your ticket for collection at the start of the event (select the Add a Copy of LONDON CLAY option at checkout), and there will be a very limited number available to purchase on the day.

About the Tour Guides

Tom Chivers is a writer, publisher and arts producer. He was born in 1983 in south London. He has released two pamphlets and two collections of poetry, the latest being Dark Islands (Test Centre, 2015). His poems have been anthologised in Dear World & Everything In It and London: A History in Verse. He was shortlisted for the Michael Marks and Edwin Morgan Poetry Awards and received an Eric Gregory Award in 2011. Tom has made perambulatory, site-specific and audio work for organisations including LIFT, Cape Farewell, Humber Mouth and Southbank Centre. He was writer in residence at Bishopsgate Institute and associate artist of the National Centre of Writing. In 2009 he presented a documentary for BBC Radio 4 about the poet Barry MacSweeney. In 2011 an animated film of his poem ‘The Event’ was broadcast by Channel 4’s Random Acts. He lives in Rotherhithe with his wife and daughters.

Siddhartha Bose is a poet, playwright, academic and theatre-maker based in Hackney, London. He was born in India and spent seven years in the US. Siddhartha is the author of two poetry collections from Penned in the Margins, and has written and performed three works for theatre: Kalagora (2010), London’s Perverted Children (2012) and The Shroud (2014).

Radical Essex with Gillian Darley and Ken Worpole

Radical Essex
[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Widget_Image_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]

An often maligned county, Essex’s recent history has been the subject of many stereotypes. A new book, Radical Essex, seeks to tell another story, exploring the dynamic relationship between London’s East End and radical experiments in living, whether in rural enclaves or on the desolate marshes. This is a story of socialist and anarchist land colonies, Christian and Tolstoyan retreats, and the county as the home of modernist architecture in Britain and model industrial communities. Two of the book’s authors, Gillian Darley & Ken Worpole, discuss the many utopian experiments in living to be re-discovered in the county’s radical history, now too often forgotten.

Gillian Darley is a widely published writer and broadcaster. Her publications include Villages of Vision (1975/2007), John Soane (1999), John Evelyn (2006), Octavia Hill (2010) and Ian Nairn: Words in Place with David McKie (2013). She is President of the Twentieth-Century Society.

Ken Worpole is the author of books on architecture, landscape and public policy, including two collaborations with photographer Jason Orton on the social history and landscape of coastal Essex: 350 Miles & The New English Landscape. His most recent book is New Jerusalem: The Good City and the Good Society (2017). A long-term resident in Hackney, he was described by The Independent as ‘one of the shrewdest and sharpest observers of the English social landscape.’

Posted on

As Serious As Your Life by Val Wilmer

As Serious As Your Life by Val Wilmer
[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Widget_Image_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]

As close to a definitive history of free jazz as one could hope for, Val Wilmer’s 1977 classic offers incredible insights into the work and lives of musicians like Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane, as well framing the movement within the wider social and economic concerns of the 1960s and 70s. The struggles faced by black artists within a fundamentally racist culture as well as the marginalised role of women within the ‘new music’ are explored in detail without ever losing sight of the radical power of the music itself, and it is the balance Wilmer maintains between astute political engagement and profound musical passion which makes this such a rare and special read.

Published by Serpent’s Tail on 1st March 2018

The Hackney Society at 50

Hackney: portrait of a community 1967-2017
[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Widget_Image_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]

Join us as we mark 50 years of The Hackney Society with a panel discussion from Julia Lafferty, Ian Rathbone, Alan Rossiter, and Laurie Elks, four of the contributors to Hackney: portrait of a community 1967-2017.

Hackney is one of the London boroughs that has changed most radically over the past fifty years. In 1967 it was one of the poorest areas of the capital, the home of a combination of light industry and much inadequate housing, with a largely working-class population. But Hackney could also boast some of the fine historic buildings of London, which is why Sir John Betjeman was persuaded to become the Society’s first President.

Today, the picture is very different. Hackney is regarded as cool, hip, the smart place to live and work, with easy access to the City. It is also home to many cultures from every part of the world. Some of its historic buildings and open spaces have survived, though not all, despite campaigns to try to save them. And the picture is complex. As one longtime Hackney resident has pointed out, in some ways the place is very much the same as it was fifty years ago, but for some, it remains an area of deprivation and violence.

Hackney: portrait of a community 1967-2017 features fifty specially commissioned pieces from a whole range of authors, who have drawn on their own experiences and expertise. The subjects covered range from social issues such as housing, the question of ‘regeneration’ and education, to the cultural, with the demise of dog racing, the opening of Centerprise and the flourishing of the theatre as exemplified by the Arcola and the Hackney Empire. The darker side is not glossed over, with a piece on the death of Colin Roach by Duncan Campbell, and the riots of 2011.

Julia Lafferty was a founder member of the campaign to save Sutton House in the 1980s. She is a trustee of the Hackney Society, serves on the Clapton Conservation Area Advisory Committee and has written articles for Hackney Society publications and for Hackney History. She acts as secretary to the Friends of Clapton Cinematograph Theatre and as an advisor on heritage issues to Clapton Arts Trust.

Ian Rathbone has worked all his life as a journalist, writer and designer and has received a number of national awards for campaigns, including one which significantly reduced street robbery in Hackney, and for his role in the disturbances of 2011. He has been a councillor for Lea Bridge Ward since 2002. Ian was born in Hackney and traces his family in the borough back to at least 1862.

Alan Rossiter is an artist, designer and public art consultant who has worked in Hackney since 1972 and lived in the borough from 1977. Alan was organiser of the Hackney Marsh Fun Festival and Fireshow, first artistic director of Chats Palace and associate director of Free Form Arts Trust.

Laurie Elks has lived in Hackney since 1972. He is a trustee of the Hackney Society and Hackney Historic Buildings Trust and a custodian of St Augustine’s Tower, the borough’s oldest building. He has campaigned for for the protection of the Lea Valley since the 1970s. He was previously a lawyer working on the investigations of miscarriages of justice.

Posted on

Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

Women and Power by Mary Beard
[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Widget_Image_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]
£7.99 / hardcover


The cultural history of misogyny you won’t believe hasn’t been written until now – Mary Beard is devastatingly lucid. Of all the excellent books around on the subject at the moment, Beard joins Solnit, Ngozi Adichie and Lorde on my list of feminist ‘must reads’.

Published by Profile on November 2nd 2017

The Last London: Iain Sinclair and Brian Catling in conversation

The Last London by Iain Sinclair
The Last London by Iain Sinclair

Select ‘General Admission + Book’ ticket type to include a hardback copy of The Last London (RRP £18.99)

Iain Sinclair has been documenting the peculiar magic of the river-city that absorbs and obsesses him for most of his adult life. In The Last London, he strikes out on a series of solitary walks and collaborative expeditions to make a final reckoning with a capital stretched beyond recognition. Here is a mesmerising record of secret scholars and whispering ghosts. Of disturbing encounters. Night hospitals. Pits that become cameras. Mole Man labyrinths. And privileged swimming pools, up in clouds, patrolled by surveillance helicopters. Where now are the myths, the ultimate fictions of a many times revised city?

Travelling from the pinnacle of the Shard to the outer limits of the London Overground system at Croydon and Barking, from the Thames Estuary to the future ruins of Olympicopolis, Sinclair reflects on where London begins and where it ends. A memoir, a critique, a love letter, The Last London is a delirious conclusion to a truly epic project.

Iain Sinclair is the award-winning writer of numerous critically acclaimed books on London, including Lights Out for the Territory, London Orbital and London Overground. He won the Encore Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Downriver. He lives in Hackney.

Brian Catling is a sculptor, poet, novelist, film maker and performance artist. His debut novel The Vorrh was praised by Tom Waits (‘I am glad to have the book as a companion on my own dark quest’), Alan Moore (‘The current century’s first landmark work of fantasy and ranking amongst the best pieces ever written in that genre’) and Michael Moorcock (‘It is one of the most original works of visionary fiction since Mervyn Peake’).

Posted on

Non-Fiction Book of the Month: Black and British by David Olusoga

Black and British by David Olusoga
David Olusoga

“We were the biggest empire the world had ever seen. The idea that you can have a domestic history apart from it doesn’t make sense. Take the industrial revolution: the stories about spinning jennys and water frames are all part of our heritage. But where does the cotton being spun in those machines come from? At school, we went to mills and factories and nobody at any point in my education pointed out that the cotton processed in those mills was made by enslaved black Americans. When we talk about the history of the industrial revolution, the missing people in that revolution are the 1.8 million enslaved people who made that cotton. It was our biggest export and almost all of it came from the American deep south.”

David Olusoga: ‘There’s a dark side to British history, and we saw a flash of it this summer’ (Guardian)

In support of Black History Month, our Non-Fiction Book of the Month throughout October will be David Olusoga’s award-winning Black and British: A Forgotten History. 

Black and British: A Forgotten History

From Pan Macmillan:
In Black and British, award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga offers readers a rich and revealing exploration of the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa. Drawing on new genetic and genealogical research, original records, expert testimony and contemporary interviews, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination and Shakespeare’s Othello.
It reveals that behind the South Sea Bubble was Britain’s global slave-trading empire and that much of the great industrial boom of the nineteenth century was built on American slavery. It shows that Black Britons fought at Trafalgar and in the trenches of the First World War. Black British history can be read in stately homes, street names, statues and memorials across Britain and is woven into the cultural and economic histories of the nation.
Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how black and white Britons have been intimately entwined for centuries. Black and British is a vital re-examination of a shared history, published to accompany the landmark BBC Two series.

London Overground film screening

London Overground
London Overground

Join Iain Sinclair and John Rogers to watch and discuss Johns‘ new film, London Overground (2016, 80 mins), in which Sinclair reprises his journey on foot around the Overground railway first made for his 2015 book of the same name.

Joined once again by filmmaker Andrew Kötting, the film also sees Iain walking with Chris Petit and Bill Parry-Davies on the 35 mile circular yomp. Iain describes the ‘Ginger Line’ as the ‘spin-drier of capitalism whirling bank notes around the city – a real moment to look at this city of unreal money’ where a new city is emerging.

The recently completed Overground circuit provides ‘a tiny little map of what is happening now’ in London. What emerges from the film is a snapshot of the city in transition and also a unique insight into the most important chronicler of contemporary London.

Iain Sinclair in conversation with Mark Pilkington

London Overground by Iain Sinclair
London Overground by Iain Sinclair

‘A walk around the circuit of the elevated railway, that accidental re-mapping of London, in a single day.’

The completion of the full circle of London Overground in December 2012 provides Iain Sinclair with a new path to walk the shifting territory of the capital.

With thirty-three stations and thirty-five miles to tramp – plus inevitable and unforeseen detours and false steps – Sinclair embarks on a marathon circumnavigation at street level, tracking the necklace of garages, fish farms, bakeries, convenience cafés, cycle repair shops and Minder lock-ups which enclose inner London.

Here he encounters traces of writers gone or nearly forgotten, uncovers evidence of careless erasures and incongruous overlappings, follows signs of decay hijacked by official rejuvenation and generally slips between the cracks of the approved and over-capitalized.

In London Overground, this new railway – which turns out to be not new at all – provides new inspiration for Iain Sinclair and a brilliant extension to his previous expeditionary epistles, Lights Out for the Territory and London Orbital.