Hackney-Themed Christmas Presents

Who needs the West End's bright lights when you've got De Beauvoir?
Who needs the West End’s bright lights when you’ve got De Beauvoir?

Want to shop local and support businesses and artists? From books to prints, tours to training – here are 10 Christmas presents for the Hackney person in your life:

1) Everyone loves a good book, especially when it’s about their own backyard. N16 Mag’s Rab MacWilliam has condensed 12 years of writing about Stokey – a village that became a seat of politicial radicalism and home of one of the UK’s most notorious police stations – into one easily-readable book called Dramas and Dissent. From anarchists to yummy mummies, it’s all in here.

2) Summing up the ambivalence felt by many towards Hackney, this print by local artist Mr Gresty is full of references to the borough that anyone living here will recognise. But has it been done to death? Foster debate in your own place with this great print.

3) It may have been out for a few years, but local writer Daniel Kramb’s Hackney-based novel Dark Times comes highly recommended. Neon Magazine said of it: “the language is frequently tender and evocative, and the juxtaposition of the two is in places extremely powerful. This clipped yet poetic style gives the prose of Dark Times a frenetic pace, and it’s easy to get sucked in.”

Order it from your regular tax-dodging online retailer, or shop local and pick it up from Stoke Newington Bookshop, Railroad Cafe or Clapton’s Pages of Hackney.

4) Presents don’t come much better than this: a new lease of life. Give someone (or give yourself) the opportunity to make a fresh start in January with a series of training packages from Hackney Fit. Based in London Fields Fitness Studios (but also home visits in places like Clapton and Stoke Newington), their morning bodyweight training camp starts 7am January 9th.

You can buy a bundle of classes or even sign-up for personal training.  In conjunction with Hackney Tours, they can also offer you either an Urban Hackney or Green Hackney running tour.

5) A trip to the Hackney Empire’s pantomime is always a great experience (Oh no it isn’t!). With it’s thinly-veiled references to local politics and events, it’s become a firm fixture on the festive calendar. The Empire’s very own regular dame (Clive Rowe) may be taking a year off, but Dick Whittington promises more London-based laughs than a Boris Johnson manifesto.

6) People are always buying things they don’t really need; at Christmas we extend this practice to others. Why not give someone an experience they can remember? Discover Hackney with your friends by hiring us (Hackney Tours) to take you on a private tour of the borough. Europe’s biggest art studios; Stoke Newington’s radical politics; the founding of modern feminism; industrial firsts; Olympic regeneration and the controversies of gentrification all make Hackney a fascinating and rich place to explore. And fun!

7) Know someone who’s stressed out and could do with something that’s good for the body and the soul? Mei Quan runs Tai-Chi classes in the splendour of St John at Hackney every Tuesday evening (or Mon eve and Wed morning in St Paul’s at Stoke Newington). Sign someone up to a term and help them learn something new that could be the start of a lifelong practice.

8) Live local and love film? Hackney Picturehouse is the brilliant arthouse cinema in Hackney Central. Annual membership costs just £35 and for that you get three free tickets so it pays for itself! Picturehouse membership entitles you to discounts on films and also at events (music, spoken word, club nights etc) at the Hackney Attic upstairs.

And, you get 10% off drinks and the excellent food chef Nico produces. It’s also a great place for a working lunch or low-key business meeting. No-brainer, as they say in high-powered meetings, apparently.

9) Hackney Tree Wardens formed in 1997 but since 2003 have gone by the funky moniker Tree Musketeers. But they’re not just about a great name: they’ve planted more than 500 trees here. Their 2012 ‘Hackney Trees’ calendar is a great way to bring a little greenery into your home.

In glorious green tones, it shows how Hackney is lucky enough to host some formidable trees, partly thanks to Loddiges world-famous nurseries and landscaping work on Stokey’s celebrated Abney Park cemetery. Get to know these beauties with a copy of the calendar, available at Stoke Newington Bookshop and Hackney Museum amongst other places.

10) Hackney is big on cycling; the healthy option, it’s good for you and the environment. Two Wheels Good in Stoke Newington’s Church Street have got two great accessories for the Hackney cyclist in your life: for the serious rider there’s Hackney GT‘s range of smart cycling tops like this Hackney 2012 design.

For the funster, Two Wheels Good have their own range of super-cute ear warmers knitted by local grandmothers to save your extremities from those winter winds blowing in from the frozen east (Siberia that is, not Stratford).

Historical footnote – Stalin visited De Beauvoir in 1907. What his views were on Hackney-themed presents was not recorded.

Stay tuned for upcoming details of the New Year ‘pay what you want’ walking tour to blow away those party cobwebs. See Hackney in a new light in a new year. ‘Like’ Hackney Tours on Facebook for updates on tours and pics of your favourite bit of East London.

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