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Hackney Pirates

Professionals in trendy neighbourhood ‘giving back’ to the local community by nurturing literacy and creativity of their less-privileged young neighbours

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The gentrification of Hackney is London’s East End, has been well documented. However becoming trendy does not instantaneously have a positive effect. In fact, gentrification can just mean people are forced away.

The proliferation of expensive cheese and organic vegetable stands in Broadway Market is a sure sign that the neighbourhood is up and coming, but they don’t particularly cater to the community that was there before. The colonisation of local ‘working man pubs’ can also leave the regulars a little bemused and even alienated.

Harmony between these communities arises when people try to bridge the gap and make a connection. The recently established Hackney Pirates ( follows in the tradition of David Egger’s 826 Valencia project (

Local volunteers offer their time by giving one-to-one attention in an out of school learning environment to develop young people’s literacy and creativity by giving them

This sort of tutoring can have a transformative effect on the kids, who may not experience this level of attention and academic support from their parents and it can also be rewarding for the young professionals who have moved to the trendy new area because they enjoy the neighbourhood, but have previously had little communication with the neighbours. 


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Great stuff - I also think there is an opportunity not only to connect with kids, but to think of creative ways to involve their parents. While kids may have clear tutoring needs, this program can be an entry point for their parents to connect with their new neighbors and get linked into new resources and activities they otherwise may not have known about or felt invited to participate in.

The school I helped to start up, English for Action,, had parallel programs for parents and children who were recent immigrants. Parents studied English, while their children participated in homework help and art workshops.

We also tapped into the resources of the parents who graduated from the program to return as Spanish instructors. This was not only a way for parents to apply their skills to generate additional income, but was also a great way for higher income, newcomers to the neighborhood to integrate with the Latino immigrant community in a relaxed learning environment.

In this light, it might be useful to consider a 'skills inventory' component in which teens and parents (not only the volunteer tutors and the children) are asked to list things that they'd like to teach, learn or give to the centre. This could amplify the types of meaningful exchange and mutually enriching relationships that emerge.

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