Monday, August 02, 2010

Iain Sinclair: Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire

I have just finished reading Iain Sinclair's Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report.

Sinclair shares some of this blog's obsessions with place, obscure writers and cult British films, which can be dignified with the term "psychogeography". One reviewer's description of him as "a gonzo Samuel Pepys" is about right.

A couple of years ago I reported that Hackney Borough Council, displaying the combination of Stalinism and an obsession with image that characterises municipal Labour these days, had withdrawn its invitation to Sinclair to launch the book in one of its libraries.

This happened when Hackney discovered he had written something critical of the redevelopment of East London to accommodate the 2012 Olympics. Happily, Liberal Democrat Islington stepped in and invited him to launch the book there.

Iain Sinclair gave some of the background to this affair in a recent interview with Rachel Cooke for the Observer:

His publisher is marketing Hackney as "the book they tried to ban", a claim based on the fact that the local council does not want its author speaking in any of its libraries because he is "anti-Olympics".

At this, Sinclair laughs gleefully. "So wonderful for me. So absurd and crazy, a metaphor for insanity, in fact, but the best piece of publicity. I was asked to go along to Stoke Newington library to speak to 20 people: old hippies and local history buffs, probably. But I'd written an anti-Olympics piece in the London Review of Books, and so the Hackney thought police decided: no, we can't have this person in our library. They lied about this all the way down the line, insisting it was nothing to do with the Olympics but that they can't have 'controversial' topics discussed in libraries.

Eventually someone from the Hackney Citizen used the Freedom of Information Act to get the transcript [of what was said in a meeting] and, sure enough, it came directly from the Mayor, Jules Pipe, saying that this person is anti-Olympics, and he doesn't go into our libraries.

1 comment:

Adam Bell said...

I was working for Islington Lib Dems around the time of the Sinclair fandango - it was a rather self-defeating attitude for Hackney to take.

The book itself is intriguing, in a fashion; an examination of the interrelationship between mind and place. Will you be doing a fuller review in due course?