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On the Kingsland Rd

February 14, 2012
by the gentle author

Brothers on the Kingsland Rd

In 2006, photographer James Pearson-Howes could not afford the rent in Shoreditch and so he moved to the Kingsland Rd, living in a tiny flat on the corner opposite where the new Haggerston Station is now. “Once I discovered the place and the people, I grew to love that road,” he admitted, “I can’t think of anywhere like it. There were Turks, Africans, White, Jewish – it was a hub of creativity and everybody got on.”

James discovered he had arrived at a time of change as major building work for the new East London Line commenced, promising a metamorphosis of this ancient thoroughfare following the line of Ermine St, the Roman road north from London through Spitalfields and across hunting grounds that were once the property of Henry VIII – the king referred to in the name Kingsland Rd.

“There was all this building work going on, so it was an instinctive response for me to record the transformation,” James recalled. At that time, I made friends with Roy and we both shared a love of the road, so we met three times a week and walked up and down the road together. He told me the stories and I took the photographs.”

Ease and intimacy characterise these fluent images, taken by a photographer who has embedded themselves within the community they portray. And today, some of what is pictured has already gone – Lady Glitter and Pier One are no more – as Dalston changes from a scruffy neighbourhood where everyone can feel at home to live and let live, already becoming another fashionable destination where the rents go up and up and up.

“These were all shot on film. I always take my personal work using film, to trust what I’ve got.” James explained, revealing his preference for the discipline of analogue photography, “You shoot – then you wait and get your your photos back a few days later.” Yet there is a relaxed spontaneous quality shared by all James’ Kingsland Rd pictures, both reflecting his delight in the endeavour and speaking eloquently of the distinctive nature of the place portrayed. “I love street photography and I just wanted to get my teeth into it,” he confessed to me.

“This is my favourite image. A fashion shoot in Ridley Rd Market in front of a man selling fish.”

Ridley Rd Market, late afternoon.

“This gold shop in Dalston is still there.”

“These old boys always sit in the window of this cafe at Dalston Junction.”

Window shopping in Dalston.

Dog leaning out of a truck.

“This is String, a friend of Roy’s and the proprietor of Lady Glitter, a barber’s salon.”

At Lady Glitter.

String observes work on the new railway line and housing complex at the rear of Lady Glitter

The development nears completion.

Guitar girl.

Guitar boy.

“This lady always sat here.”

At “Manhattan” in Dalston, specialising in suits for African weddings.

At “Da Endz,” specialising in New Era hats.

“This girl wanted to show off her watch.”

“Gilbert & George eat dinner at Mangal in the Kingsland Rd every night. Gilbert takes a bus and George walks.”

“I liked this lady’s look with her earrings.”

Paloma Faith, rising pop star.

Jamie from the Klaxons at the laundrette.

Turkish bakers make yufka at Somine Restaurant.

“Sharma, a stylist, who has now opened her own nail bar – Wah Nails.”

“At Pier One, the club was painted all black with neons and day-glo, and they played predominantly Hip Hop and R’n’B.”

At Pier One.

A restaurant at the rear of a car wash.

“Halal grocery store by night, photographed from a passing bus.”

Sleeping by the Regent’s Canal.

Photographs copyright © James Pearson-Howes

You may also like to read these other Kingsland Rd stories

At William Gee Ltd, Haberdashers

At Arthur’s Cafe

At KTS, the Corner

At the Geffrye Almshouses

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Ruth permalink
    February 14, 2012

    I’ve lived on one side or other of the Kingsland Rd for 11 years now & in the last couple the changes (gentrification, call it what you will) have gathered pace. In another 10 I feel certain it will bear very little resemblance to its current incarnation.

  2. Nicola permalink
    February 14, 2012

    I loved looking att these!!! I did not want them to stop, they made me miss home!!! well done they are beautiful

  3. February 16, 2012

    This is the best photographic representation of Dalston I’ve seen for a long time! Not overly sensationalised but there’s a real vibrant energy to this. Brilliant !

  4. February 29, 2012

    Great photos. I squatted in various council houses in and around Kingsland Road in the 80s. They’re were loads of ’empties’ to choose from as it wasn’t a popular area then. I still miss Dalston. I loved living there. I live in Glasgow now and it’s just not the same.

  5. March 1, 2012

    brings back memories.. I lived at junction of cremer st/kingsland for a few years.

  6. Nikki permalink
    October 26, 2013

    Ahhh wonderful pics, a true time capsule of that part of London so many said would “never get off the ground”. There were many of us who never thought that for a second! It has a life force all of it’s own this area. It was poor, children wore hand me downs with pride & were respectful to others. It’s a place where all nationalities are welcome & live in harmony allongside each other. A place where you can be assured of seeing warm hearted people & have fabulous food that’s still cheap.

    I remember the days when everyday residents fought developers & pleaded with the council. Not because we didn’t want to see derelect buildings & barren land transformed, heavens no. We just didn’t want tacky, skyscraping eyesores in their place. I look at these pics now & think my goodness that campaigning was so worth it! I just hope that people continue to love & appreciate the area for what it is & don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg so to speak. Those little eating places with the wooden shairs, the market stalls & ethnic grocers, unique shops that take you back in time are part of that golden egg in my opinion. I just hope with all my heart that the area continues to thrive in the right way.

  7. Roger Tiller permalink
    February 24, 2014

    Some great looking people in the road.

  8. Jake permalink
    July 13, 2014

    Does anyone remember the Saturday market called the Waste?

  9. Peter Wade permalink
    January 6, 2018

    I used to walk along the waste every Saturday, having apple fritters, then a glass of sarsaparilla then look in the train shop, the round the corner in dalston junction the music shop opposite the station.

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