On 18 June, local historian Peter Ashan will be taking us on a tour of the Ridley Road Freedom Walk. We asked him a few questions about his love for Dalston and its people, as well as what you can expect from this tour.
Why does Dalston stand out to you?
Its diversity. For decades it has been a place where people from many backgrounds have come to call home. Working class, African Caribbean, Turkish, Irish, and Jewish - to mention just a few. Their resilience in overcoming discrimination and poverty, to make a life for themselves and their families, as well as their ability to share their culture and experiences, which is well reflected in the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural. And of course, Dalston has Ridley Road Market.
Tell us one of your favourite stories of the people of Dalston
That of Glen Thompson, one of the co-founders of Centerprise, born to African American parents in New York in 1940. He founded Centerprise with Margaret Gosley when they were youth workers in Hackney in 1970. They set it up to provide opportunities for Hackney’s working class and its diverse community, so they could have access to literacy, and take control of their own history and culture.
Glen knew what it was like to be poor and struggle to get an education. It was not until he was 12 years old, and with the help of a supportive teacher, that he learnt to read, leaving school at just 14 years of age.
There are two people associated with Centerprise who reflect its aims: Buzz Johnson and Andrea Levy.
Buzz Johnson, a publisher born in Tobago, set up Karia Press and is credited with bringing Claudia Jones back to the public’s attention with his book ‘l Think of My Mother: Notes on the Life and Times of Claudia Jones’. His publications were regularly on the bookshelves of the Centerprise bookshop.
Next is Andrea Levy, who regularly gave readings at Centerprise from her books about the Jamaican migrant experience in Britain.
What can someone expect to learn from your tour?
The hidden histories of working-class people and people of colour. Their spirit of resistance against exploitation and their desire to build a better world. That, right in our own neighbourhoods, there are examples of people doing just that.
Discover the story of Dalston, its community, and the activists who made it their home on our Walking Tour – The Ridley Road Freedom Walk.