Hackney: A Tale of Two Cities – Zed Nelson

Hackney – A Tale of Two Cities

Youths hang out next to the River Lea, Hackney. London

Hackney, though crime-ridden, poor, and dilapidated, is also now London’s trendiest neighbourhood, and home to the forthcoming 2012 Olympics. Contemporary design studios and modernist apartment blocks pepper the landscape, like out-of-place totems of middle-class gentrification.

The social landscape for an under-privileged 16 year-old growing up in Hackney, one of London’s poorest boroughs, is a million light-years away from the new urban hipsters who frequent the cool bars and expensive cappuccino café’s springing up in the same streets. These worlds co-exist side-by-side but entirely separate, creating bizarre juxtapositions of wealth and poverty, aspiration and hopelessness.

As was seen in the riots that took place in London this year, an under-class generation with seemingly limited horizons and hopes are increasingly dislocated from progressive society. As Hackney’s over-stretched police force make efforts to combat gun and knife crime in the area – mainly the result of petty turf-wars between young gangs of ‘hoodies’ – Hackney is in the midst of an extraordinary contemporary social situation, where the fashionable young hipsters, yuppie developments and organic café’s co-exist awkwardly with Hackney’s most under-privileged.

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