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Food and Frontlines: An Audiotour

11 / 12 The Hackney Pirates, formerly Centerprise Café

What was Centerprise?

  • A bookshop that defied expectations. Commercial publishers said, ‘But working class people don’t read’ when it opened back in 1971. 
  • A place where Jewish war veterans and troubled 12-year-olds became best-selling authors.
  • A place where Caribbean English was a language of print not a broken dialect.
  • A collision of worldviews.
  • A place where the outside came in.
  • A hot running place for Trinidadian roti and wicked English crumble.
  • A place where Sinn Fein and the Association of Autonomous Astronauts had a mail box.
  • A place where nobody worry your head.
  • A place the far right loved to firebomb.
  • A sanctuary from the police.
  • A refuge from the Frontline that became a frontline for debates about identity and power in the 1980s.
  • A place where the dominant culture was in a minority by the 1990s.

Centerprise got evicted by the Council in 2012, Ridley Road Market is under threat, Sandringham Road sleeps tight. The Frontline has shifted again. Do we still need a Frontline in Dalston? Where is the radical edge now? Where do different worlds collide? Let’s make new music in history’s echo chamber!


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Hackney Pirates, formerly part of the Centerprise cafe/coffeebar, 2016 © Patrick Henry
Letter about National Front attacks, 1978 Courtesy of Friends of Huntley Archives at London Metropolitan Archive