Snapper Alan Denney shares his five favourite shots of Hackney
- Credit: Alan Denney
Alan Denney has been photographing our borough since 1976. He talks Emma Bartholomew through five that are close to his heart.
Alan Denney has been taking photos of Hackney ever since he moved here 41 years ago.
He came here for the weekend to stay with some friends – and never left.
“When I came here in the early ’70s, Hackney was a derelict, very run down area,” said Alan, 65.
“There was a counter-culture community gathering here of drop-outs, musicians, actors and teachers.
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“It was cheap to live here, so I put down roots, and I suppose my photos hopefully reflect something of my political ideas – I have very strong left-wing ideas.
“The world isn’t arranged in a fair way, and people in Hackney get s*** upon from a great height all the time.”
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Hackney’s population had dropped by 100,000 following the Second World War – as a result, Alan believes, of housing destroyed in the Blitz and people moving out to new homes being built in Essex and Hertfordshire.
“There were lots of empty houses in Hackney that were bought by slum landlords who let them to people like me and to immigrants,” said Alan, who lives in Dynevor Road. “There was an older, white population of respectable working class people whose kids hadn’t stayed in Hackney, a lot of immigrants and young people like me with long hair – it was quite a mix.
“I suppose then everyone living here could go into any shop and feel comfortable. I don’t think you could do that now – there are more exclusive spaces and they tend to be a bit pricey. It’s no longer a run down working-class suburb.”
Alan reckons his photo of 187 Stoke Newington High Street captures that aspect of Hackney’s past perfectly.
A former Victorian women’s hospital, it had been left to go to ruin before a revamp saw it turned into YumYum’s Thai restaurant.
One of Alan’s more memorable photos is that of Michael Ferreira’s funeral, who died at Stoke Newington police station in 1979.
“He was a young black boy who got into a fight with a couple of white boys on the High Street,” said Alan, a retired teacher and social worker. “He staggered into the police station for help. It’s not clear what happened but they left him and he died. The community was very angry about that – this was on top of local routine daily violence that the Afro-Caribbeans experienced regularly.”
Alan also has a photo of the 2 tone and ska band Bad Manners playing the Stoke Newington Common festival in the ’70s before they hit the big time. “They were local boys from the Woodberry Down estate, and it was part of the entertainment,” he said. “They were alright – they were full of energy doing pop rock type songs.”
Not surprisingly, he is also fond of his snaps of the TUC Day of Action on May Day 1980, where local trade unionists took a day off work and met in Victoria Park carrying anti-Tory signs.
And a snapshot of people waiting at a bus stop is also in his top five.
“There’s a lady with a beehive hairdo,” he said. “They were the older generation when I was a young person here. They sum it up nicely: steely-faced Cockneys.
“I was making a record of life around me. I had hoped the pictures would get seen at some point.”
See more of Alan’s photos at flickr.com/photos/alandenney