Hackney radical history – events of interest

A few upcoming events of interest I’ve happened across – feel free to get in touch with anything I’ve missed…

Wednesday 23rd February 7pm:
Their Story in Hackney: Progressive Activism and Queerness
with Richard & Kieran Kirkwood

£5/£3 concessionsbook here

VFD 66 Stoke Newington Road,  London N16 7XB

Join us at VFD for an insightful talk on the activism and human rights movements that have taken place in Hackney from the 60s onwards. We’ll hear from Richard Kirkwood who participated in many of these movements and from Kieran Kirkwood who builds upon their father’s work as an organiser for London’s Renters Union, climate activists Wretched of the Earth and saving culture movement Save Ridley Road.

We’ll talk about the link between the radical history and politics of Hackney, how that attracts queer arts communities which in turn attracts investment and gentrification which then means they are no longer welcome or can afford to live in the area.

Richard and Kieran Kirkwood
Richard is a former senior lecturer of social science at London Met University is Hackney born and bred and was involved as a young man in the politics of the area and was a regular ‘space keeper ‘at Speakers Corner on Ridley Road Market in efforts to keep Nazi’s off the Corner. He was involved with many unions from the 70’s onwards as well as organising movements, groups and individuals. He is still an activist and has incredible knowledge and insights of Hackney’s history and can relate them to movements happening nationally and internationally.

Saturday 26th February 12pm/2pm:
Guided Walking Tour with Queer Hackney Resident Lavinia Co-op

£10 book here.

Start at: VFD 66 Stoke Newington Road,  London N16 7XB

Discover Hackney’s history, guided by performance artist Lavinia Co-op, sharing stories of life in Hackney. 

Lavinia has lived most of his life in Hackney and was a member of the radical queer theatre group The Bloolips from the 1970’s to 1990’s. 

Thursday 10th March 7pm:
Misbehaviour: Learning From the Women of the Grosvenor Avenue

Donation book here.

Newington Green Meeting House

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Come along to meet and hear from some of the women who used to live in a commune in Grosvenor Avenue, Stoke Newington.

This group famously demonstrated against the Miss World Contest in 1970 (which was watched by 100 million people worldwide).Their book, “Misbehaving”, told the fascinating true story behind the 2020 film about the protest, which starred Keira Knightley – and which was a hit with fans.


Saturday 12th March 7:30pm:
Hackney Downs: The School that Dared to Fight and Didn’t Deserve to Die
Betty Hales and Jeff Davies, the last Head & Deputy Head of Hackney Downs School


St John’s Church Hall, next to the church opposite Matalan, High Road, Leytonstone, London E11 1HH

News From Nowhere Club was founded in 1996: “the club challenges the commercialisation and isolation of modern life and meets monthly on Saturdays.”

There is much of interest in its 2022 programme, but this forthcoming event is particularly of relevance to Hackney:

In July 1995, Hackney Downs School won a prolonged battle to stay open, against a corrupt, incompetent Local Education Authority, convincing the full council to vote against the recommendation of its own Chief Education Officer: an amazingvictory, yet just ten days laterit was taken over by the East London Education Association, a quango set up by the then failing Tory government, desperate to put the blame for all social ills on anyone but itself.  

The school was closed with unseemly haste & callous cruelty to pupils, parents & staff. This is a story of loyalty and passion against injustice which set the scene for the negative blame culture of bureaucracy, target setting & over-testing that has plagued education for the past 25 years.  

Free entry. Donations/Raffle/Voluntary Membership £5pa 

7.30pm Buffet (please bring an item if you can:vegetarian or vegan only.) 

No entry before 7.30pm please. 

8.00pm Talk and discussion till about 10pm

Leytonstone tube, exit left, two minute walk / Overground: Leytonstone High Road, turn left, ten minute walk   / Buses 66, 145, 257, W13, W14, W15, W19 / Disabled access / car park in front of church / bikes can be brought in / Quiet children welcome / You can phone to confirm the talk will be as shown / Open to all; no booking, just turn up 

We are on Facebook    Twitter @Nowhere_Club / Enquiries 0208 555 5248 / Email: williammorrisnews@outlook.com / Web:newsfromnowhereweb.wordpress.com / Talks are recorded and put on our website

Hackney HOWLers – Write Women Into History

Write Women Into History: Recollections by older Hackney Feminists was published last year as part of the HOWL (History of Women’s Liberation) project.

HOWL was established in 2019 to mark 50 years since the earliest UK Women’s Liberation Groups were formed and to:

“reveal and collect the wealth of stories by grassroots women from diverse backgrounds who were part of this important movement”

The fourteen contributors met online during the lockdown to discuss their lives, their writing and to draw each other for the cover artwork.

The resulting booklet is nicely produced with a great variation of styles from diverse contributors and numerous photographs and illustrations. I especially enjoyed Sue O’Sullivan’s recollections of the Sheba feminist publishing collective in 1980s Dalston, BJ & MJ’s dialogue about their mother/daughter relationship and Gilli Salvat on the first UK black lesbian support group – but there is something of interest on every page. (I was also excited to see a chapter by my next door neighbour – hello!)

The concise (and very readable) contributions tend to focus on the positive (and frankly we all need a bit of that). So this isn’t the place for extended accounts of fallings out and schisms. There are some simply stated differences though. For example Stephanie Henthorne’s “political lesbians (what was that all about?)” is perhaps affectionately at variance with Jan S’s “For me, heterosexuality seems incompatible with feminism”.

I think the most striking aspect of the book is the general impression it gives of the oppressions women faced in the late 20th Century in the UK, the courage it took to join a movement that was battling them – and the fun that could be had being part of that. Of course, some progress has been made since – not least because of the hard work done by the contributors and their allies in the feminist movement. But if you’re reading this, I’m sure you’d agree that there is still a long way to go – so it’s gratifying to see that many of the Hackney HOWLers are still active in a number of radical projects today.

Copies of the book can be ordered from Lulu for £5 plus p&p.

Photo by the project designer Luise Vormittag