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Magdalena

July 9th, 2023

My favourite neighbourhood in London – an ode to Dalston

0 comments | 1 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Magdalena

July 9th, 2023

My favourite neighbourhood in London – an ode to Dalston

0 comments | 1 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

London is a unique city with rich history and culture reflected in its physical landscape. Indeed, the city’s diverse character is epitomised by its neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct character and atmosphere.

You’ve surely heard about Notting Hill, Soho or Camden. But my favourite neighbourhood is probably a little bit less known. I’m talking about Dalston, located in East London and known for its music scene, events and nightlife.

This neighbourhood was shown to me by a one-of-a-kind tour guide – my flatmate, Basia, who is a city planner and my go-to person for all things urban. An urbanist extraordinaire, Basia used to live in Dalston and wrote her dissertation about it, so she knows it inside out. She showed me the iconic bits of the area as well as places frequented by locals.

Dalston is a historically multicultural area with an ethnically varied population. In the 20th century, it attracted a lot of immigrants, particularly Jews from Central Europe and the Caribbean community. In recent years, it has undergone rapid gentrification, linked to the extension of the London Underground, making it well connected to the central parts of the city, and revitalisation of the area for the 2012 Olympics.

Despite these continuing gentrification processes, what appeals to me about Dalston is how much of its original identity it retained.

Indeed, the area is unique and diverse even at first sight. One of the first things you see when you leave the Dalston Junction station is the colourful Peace Mural. Painted in 1985, it depicts a vibrant mix of people marching together against the threats to peace – an important cultural statement, promoting peace, equality, and social justice.

Dalston is also full of community spaces. Locals and visitors can hang out in the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden nearby the mural. A lovely community garden run by a non-profit organisation, it includes a café and a variety of seating areas incorporated among plants, trees and flowers. Importantly, the garden hosts a wide range of cultural events, including live music performances, film screenings, and art exhibitions.

A bit further into the neighbourhood, you can shop for a wide variety of food at the Ridley Road Market. It’s especially well-known for its offer of exotic fruits and vegetables as well as many African and Caribbean food stalls.

On the cultural side, Dalston is also home to the famous Rio Cinema – an independent Art Deco cinema with a history going back to 1909. There’s also a remarkable events venue EartH with unique, original Art Deco features. It hosts a wide range of cultural events and is dedicated to sustainability, gender equality and supporting local artists. In the heart of Dalston, there’s also Gillet Square – a community-led space committed to representing local cultures and ethnic groups. Originally a neglected and underused area, it underwent social regeneration resulting in the creation of a thriving public space where a range of events and activities regularly takes place.

After sightseeing in the neighbourhood, you can visit my favourite Andu Café to taste delicious Ethiopian cuisine in its unique atmosphere.

As a postscript – a bunch of fun facts about Dalston. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry used to share a house there in the early 1980s. The area is also the setting for the music video for Criminal by Britney Spears. If I don’t convince you to visit Dalston, I’m sure the Princess of Pop will!

About the author

Magdalena

Hi, I’m Magda, a Sociology master’s student coming from Poland. I’m interested in the issues of class and social stratification as well as history, which I studied for my undergraduate degree. I have an artistic soul and enjoy literature, cinema and theatre.

Posted In: London life

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