fifth column

Crime Scene Investigation

By Benedict Seymour, 20 August 2012
Image: Crime scenesters on Broadway Market

Shot at while eating alfresco in Broadway Market, E8. I think it's some kind of karma. Certainly another episode for the East London Book of the Dead. Bohos in the bardo.

I once co-made a video about the gentrification of the area with a section called 'The Shoot'. In fact, it was shot just a few metres from the crime scene, where, in those days, TV and Cronenberg were busily 'staging scenes of crime'. Every week another episode of The Bill seemed to have requisitioned bits of the street as a potmekin red light district, ersatz hookers and crims loitering under the halogen lamps. Meanwhile, the council were claiming to be making the area more 'mixed and balanced' by privatising and selling off housing, displacing the poor. Hackney seemed like an experimental film made by the regen state reality studios. By day another branch of the media were shooting ads for minis in a Broadway Market disguised as Notting Hill. 'They want to remake the area as a love story', I said in the video, in a '2 or 3 Things I Know About Her' whisper.

It was clear it wouldn't turn out as scripted, but today the different film genres have decisively converged. Hackney: a great place to live, work, and get shot. Urban Village as urban as it is village, as neo-feudal as it is post-boho inburb. It's no doubt part of a wider, trans-London coherence-in-extremity. A convergence beyond the warehouse conversions, with the artists and hipsters draining, the post-hipsters (posteriors?), late-bobo, and tourist traffic surging, and the basic plot of increasingly conspicuous affluence and deepening poverty ever ramified. Gangs, of all scales and species, are still calling the shots in the East End, things have just gotten simultaneously more virtual and more real. Drive by (well, cycle by) shootings next to simulacral tavernas, missiles on buildings and asbos for drinking in the park. All part of the general tendency to some kind of paroxyistic post-urban condition. Post-hipster, midst Serco and Tesco, the inner city is become a private-public police state where you get shot at by gun men on BMXs.

This shonky state has the money and guns to lock things down for the Olympics but can no longer stretch to a police incident zone tape in E8. Bullet casings are placed under glasses borrowed from the cafe. Shades of The Wire - 'doing more with less'. All this makes one think Broadway Market is still stuck in its role as a shooting set, a site for remaking the familiar gangster, hipster, and real estate scripts ad nauseum and post-mortum. The neighbourhood may never be reproduced, but continues to recycle the tropes of neoliberal urbanism. Condemned to repeat on itself because it can never quite digest the trauma of self-cannibalisation.

Still, no need for grand guignol. Luckily this was only a near death experience (as the regenecidal zombie said to the estate agent). No one injured, although the shooting resulted in one very shaken Polish waitress who was standing poised to swipe my debit card as the shooter swooped. The high price of a free meal in E8...

Oh, and the developer-owned bar opposite - rot his undead soul - charged us for the brandies with which we calmed our frazzled nerves, even though they knew we'd just been shot at. This was without doubt the most shocking deed of the evening - but oh, so Broadway Market, for anyone who knows the neighbourhood's landlords.


The Occupation: