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Workers’ memorial in Hackney walk

2012 July 31
Plaque Powell House
A workers’ memorial and a forgotten radical past

I have recently been trying out a new walk around Clapton and central Hackney with artist Melissa Bliss who I met at the unofficial histories conference held at the Bishopsgate Institute in May. We are looking at  traces of the past in the current landscape that are often overlooked. These include trade marks on railings, kerb stones ‘chiselled’ during the riots last year, public pathways dating back to 1816 now used by foxes and workshops about to be transmogrified in the new Hackney in which yummy mummy shops are proliferating almost weekly.

We were pleased to see surviving amidst consumerist dross and privatised space a plaque to the workers who in the 1980s built new council houses and flats on Lower Clapton Road – or murder mile. When the stone – and accompanying paving stones listing by name the DLO apprentices who built the houses – was laid it was a statement of opposition in the face of Conservative attacks. The plaque – and scheme – was a stand  against government destruction of unionised and directly employed labour, training programmes, and public housing. However, I doubt if any councillors realised how this plaque, only 30 years later, would be one of the few remaining traces locally of this radical past…

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