By Duchess of Hackney

Hackney livin' n lovin'. Sarky frosty knickers always gobby, and perpetually pissed off for good reasons. Wind up merchant extraordinaire, but a nice old fashioned unusually unusual gal... Writing lots of wrongs.

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No Sainsbury’s Stoke Newington Bullies: Don’t agree with us and we boycott your business

I wasn’t surprised by the actions of some members of  Stokey Local, a loose ensemble of people who are against the proposal of a new S ainsburys in Stoke Newington.  The hypocrisy and nastiness of these people pretty much sums them and the whole movement of people in various enclaves of Hackney, who feel they are the gate keepers.

After Benedict Moore-Bridger of The Evening Standard, wrote a piece  about the protest being one divided by class on Thursday, there were shrill screams and wails coming from their camp within minutes of it being published. The usual rhetoric and what I can only describe as venomous tirade ensued against Moore-Bridger, the Hackney Hive author of  Who’s kidding who over Stoke Newington’s Sainsbury’s proposal (extensively quoted in Moore-Bridgers article) and Atique Choudhury, owner of three  popular and succesful restaurants in Stoke Newington.


It wasn’t the remarks to the Evening Standard journalist or to Hackney Hive that concerned me most, but the anger and venom towards Atique Choudhury  owner of award-winning Thai restaurant Yum Yum, Mercado (Mexican) and Oishii (Japanese).

You see Atique is amongst residents and business owners who welcome a new Sainsburys in N16. They may not be as vocal as the anti-Sainsbury’s posse but I easily assume they are the majority…they don’t need to scream and dress up in dumb zombie costumes to make a point.

Apparently Choudhury reckons the whole hoopla smacks of a “class divide” and says people should not be “picky and choosy” about new business and employment opportunities in such difficult economic times. He was quoted in the Evening Standard piece saying; “There is a massive class divide in Stoke Newington – Sainsbury’s is no good, but Waitrose we don’t mind. How does that work?

“In Stoke Newington not everybody is middle class and has money. What about the poorer people? Aren’t they entitled to go shopping too?

“High streets survive because of footfall. Do the voices complaining about Sainsbury’s represent the majority? These are the questions we must ask ourselves.”

I only came along for this stupid protest because mummy gave me a bloody hand to chew on.

Not quite a “Gerald Ratner” but he may have shot himself in his foot.  As far as some of the Stokey NIMBY’s are concerned, he’s history and they claim they will no longer patronise his business and have encouraged others not to. You can’t help but wonder; where these people’s loyalty  lay. On one hand they claim they are all for the interest of local businesses, yet go against their wishes and you are excluded. How much more hypocritical can you be?

Choudhury has been in Stoke Newington for 18 years and other than running his successful restaurants, he has given back generously to the community (I can hear all the cynics yelling tax right off! – You aren’t alone 🙂 ) but hey,  he gives back to his community right? He also upped Stokey’s profile,  after his restaurants appearance on Gordon Ramsey’s F word.

Second best Thai restaurant in the UK may not be an accurate description, but in today’s fickle business world it’s the hype that counts.

What Sainsbury’s? We don’t even live in Stokey – We’re here for the party and booze up afterwards…you gotta love Stokey…woohooo!!!

What has he done for the borough? How about;

  • Sponsor of the Asian and Oriental School of Catering. Due to its success now a part of Hackney College.
  • Contributors to all local nursery, primary and secondary schools
  • Regular sponsors of the Hackney Empire
  • Major sponsors of the Early Music Festival at the old St. Mary’s Church
  • Regular sponsors of Stoke Newington Festival
  • One of the original founders of Stoke Newington Business Association
  • Sponsors of theatre productions at Arcola Street Contemporary Theatre
  • Sponsors of Stoke Newington schools Annual Booklet
  • Regular sponsors of Sutton House Music Trust
  • Major sponsors of Tower Hamlets Badminton Club
  • Sponsor of the Stoke Newington swimming club
  • recently they launched an apprentice training programme for aspiring restauranteurs

I’m here for the party! Got some charlie?

This is the face of Stoke Newington nimbyism. Is it any wonder other stokey busineses owners are going to stay quiet about their position? According to Rosanne Berry,  Chairwoman of the  Stoke Newington Business Association earlier this summer, some members held varying views. Some were pro and some against.

Listen I know I’m becoming known for sniffing at urban middle classes and their urban affectations, but I can’t help it. I live in Hackney and I am surrounded by it and I just can’t help pointing out the obvious. I’m also worried that a minority of people act as gate keepers and think they speak for everyone, will one day make some groups in this community feel unwelcome on their own turf. Pricing them out is a whole ‘nother blog post.

I hear so many of them say most of the people they talk to are against, if so why are they so worried?

Apathy, poverty, cultural differences maybe some of the reasons some people aren’t fussed about making a scene about a Sainsbury or Tesco. Stack ’em high and sell em cheap is what they are looking for, not soft rubbery manky carrots or pass the sell by date butter.  People want good parking when they shop and most of all they want choice. Unfortunately neighborhood idealism is a luxury many can not afford.

The clap trap about putting smaller businesses out is pure bull shit rhetoric they need to back up their campaign. Besides in bad times, neighborhood idealism can be easily compromised especially if you have a family to feed. As for disappearance of  the high street, I saw where someone made a comment in the ES about “lack lustre” corner shops; “The protests would be understandable if the shops were displacing artisan bakers and old-style fishmongers, but the new stores will actually compete against the lacklustre 24-hour corner-shops which helped destroy the English high-street.

I couldn’t agree more. Our high streets in Hackney have become stretches of depressing shanty town like shops, with not particularly great customer service. They are the ones putting themselves out of business not the  Sainsburys or Tescos . How many liquor stores or Chicken n chip joints do we need on our high streets?  Or pound shops, betting shops?  You have to admit our high streets in London, not just Stoke Newington are in a dire state.

If people want to live in a “village” find a real village in the Shires. Villages in an urban setting only exists in the mind of the pretentious and real estate agents. Get real people and stop the scare mongering about evil corporations moving into Stoke Newington.

I have a strong feeling Stokey’s unique character is going nowhere…a handful of established known brands will not be the death of Chruch Street as you know it, and I feel it will only enhance it.

But I have to admit to the protesters credit, I have looked at the entrance of Wilmer Place every which way without standing on my head, in an attempt to figure out how the hell delivery trucks will make that narrow corner.  As for the residents of Wilmer Place, it’s the price you pay, when you take up residence in such a commercial zone.

And what do I have to say to Mr Choudhury? I’m with you dude, but please go to Guadalajara and find real Mexican cooks. I spent £87 two years ago at Mercado on the worst Mexican/Tex Mex meal. My family was very disappointed.

Soooo scary

Photos: Albert Ross

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