This week I returned to my old stomping ground of Dalston, for the Big Issue journalist training course. My first photo assignment was drawn from the building opposite, a police station of my youth, where I more than once sampled the restrained accommodation.
Around the side – everybody used to enter through the front and leave via the back – where a kind stranger in the doorway invited me in to take some ‘pics’. Since being a police station the building has been sold to a private developer, first rented flats, then more profitable as a hostel. The police car park out the back has been developed into social housing. An alleged sweetener to the council.
Outside two elderly gentlemen, precariously holding onto their ‘special brews’, boasted about how many times they had spent nights in the old ‘nick’. One, sadly, pointing out that he often got himself arrested, just so he had somewhere to stay.
A passing Eastern European woman, who has lived in the area for over ten years, knew it as the site of a ‘notorious’ police station. But what I remembered was the ‘notorious’ enmity between the police station and the Four Aces nightclub nearby. Summed up by graffiti sprayed on the first night the station was vacated.
‘Closed by order of the Four Aces club’
Ironically the club became a part of the Dalston Library extension. Public institution becomes private hostel; private club becomes public institution. No surprises to anyone familiar to housing in the area or London in general, but then both station and club are personal to me, because it is also an intricate part of my own history.