I was very keen to review Acquired For Development By… because of a personal knowledge of the London Borough of Hackney. My mother’s family came from that part of East London and she grew up on a council estate off the Lower Clapton Road. The estate has long since been demolished and re-developed, along with much of the Hackney she knew–indeed, along with much of Hackney; hence the title of the anthology.
From my perspective, Acquired For Development By… has been a fascinating read. It examines Hackney, its varied localities and diverse communities, through poetry, fiction and journalistic prose. It is a collection of literary snapshots of an area in transition: from slums to desirable residential area, alternative lifestyles to urban asylum, gateway to the Olympics to disquieting future worlds.
Twenty-five writers have contributed to this literary collage, including Gary Budden (who is also one of the anthology editors), Siddhartha Bose, Daniel Kramb and Molly Naylor. A wide variety of styles, genres and literary media are represented here and, as you might expect of such diverse writing pulled together only by a sense and love of place, not all of it is going to please equally. I came across writing which more than lives up to Owen Jones’s back-cover accolade, “A beautiful, lucid insight into life in one of the most diverse communities in Britain. Revealing, witty and moving.“, along with accompanying contributions which left me decidedly unmoved. Other readers will inevitably have different favourites and sections they could do without.
Despite this variability, the book kept me reading because of the vibrant and convincing images it paints of current-day Hackney. A strong sense of loyalty to home turf runs throughout the pieces. As Siddhartha Bose says in his poem “Wicklove”:
“…there’s Hackney in pink–river-shroud, rave-rotted incantation. Prayers join us in love.”
Whether readers who are less in love with the East London locale will remain as captivated, I have no way of knowing, but if you want to experience Hackney’s diversity in all her rough and ready glory, you could do worse than read Acquired For Development By… It is an impressive debut publication from Influx Press. I am intrigued to know what they will be publishing next. If they continue to adhere to their stated commitment “to publish challenging, controversial and alternative work that is written in order to dissect and analyse our immediate surroundings and produce site specific fiction and poetry“, it should be rather interesting.
JS Watts lives and writes in the flatlands of East Anglia. Her poetry and short stories appear in a diversity of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States. Her debut poetry collection, Cats and Other Myths, and a subsequent poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue, are published by Lapwing Publications. You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/J.S.Watts or on her website www.jswatts.co.uk.