The front page of the new edition of Hackney Today says:
Residents are being encouraged to take part in a Question Time style debate about the future of the borough. It is being held to launch a major, year-long resident engagement programme during which the Council aims to talk to thousands of people about their experience of the rapid social and economic changes that have affected the borough in recent times.
All of this is true. The debate is being held at the City Academy on 18th March, and if you want to be in the audience you'd better move fast because the last time I looked there were only 58 tickets left. My particular interest in the event is that I will be chairing it in my capacity as long-term Hackney resident (I think it's 34 years), writer of the Guardian's On London column and author of this blog.
That may not excite you, but the panelists for the evening should. One of them is the borough's mayor Jules Pipe. Then there's barrister Tunde Okewale who was born in Hackney and has, among other things, contributed the Citizens' Inquiry into the Tottenham Riots. Alongside Tunde will be the Open University's Melissa Butcher, whose work includes a project involving young local people called Creating Hackney as Home. The fourth member of the panel will be Clapton's own Robbie de Santos, who now works for the debt advice charity StepChange and before that wrote influential reports on housing policy for Shelter.
So be there on 18 March if you can. A big topic on the night is likely to be gentrification and its impacts. I've written quite a lot on this issue. Here's a passage from a Guardian column I produced two years ago:
Two years ago, a Tesco Express arrived in my backyard despite protests from among the local middle-class worried about independent shops being squeezed. The "traditional community," as some anti-gentrifiers would term everyone else, have taken a different approach – they shop there. Nearby, a new-ish Sunday market sells cheese you need a second mortgage to afford, but the comments here suggest the presence of such cheese is thought beneficial by some who'd never actually buy it.
These are complicated times. It's good to talk.