Royal Thoughts Pt. 1: Let’s Be Brief

This Sunday our Royal Thoughts segment will be taking over Arcola’s Studio 2 to present a varied programme focusing on Dalston’s creative scene. We caught up with one half of Let’s Be Brief’s husband/wife founding team, Stephanie McLaren to talk about the face of Dalston.


My first recollections of Dalston were as a teenager: the infamous Ridley Road market, the distinctive smell of fish stalls, hole-in-the-wall taxicab stations and queuing outside half dodgy nightclubs. There’s no question the area has changed significantly from my initial introduction. However, it has always been a place for creativity – which was one of the reasons why we were drawn to the area.

In our upcoming talk ‘Place is the Space’ at Land of Kings, we’ll be discussing the past and future cultural legacy of Dalston. As well as the wider issue of the design of ‘place’, how can design – in the wider sense of the word – impact culture? And the real hub of the topic: ‘What creates community?’ In a prelude to our discussion we’ve been thinking about what makes Dalston a special place to us. Here are some of our faves:

Dalston Curve Garden

What’s not to love about a garden of tranquillity in the middle of the city? What makes DCG particularly special is the ethos behind it. Created to provide a public green space for the community, you can relax or get actually involved in nurturing the green space.

Eastern Curve Garden

NTS Studio / Gillett Square

The LBB show on NTS Radio is now in its third year. During that time we’ve had an array of amazing guests from George Clinton, Andrew Ashong to the future tech leader / genius Aral Balkan.

The NTS studio is a special place: it’s a little hut in Gillett Square adorned with stickers and an assortment of music and recording paraphernalia. For the uninitiated, Gillett Square is an amalgamation of jazz clubs, small local indie businesses and a home for the homeless and disenfranchised – let’s call it a very ‘real’ spot of Dalston.

Gillett Square

Dalston Junction Tube Station

Ok, so it may not exactly rank highly in Architectural Digest, but in regards to impactful design, means of transport and accessibility, it ranks highly in our books. No, the bus station doesn’t work, but the East London Line has brought a transportation life line to the area. And in our book, that’s all good.

Dalston Junction

CLR James Library

Named after the Trinidadian writer / academic, the new CLR James Library is actually a part of Dalston’s former legacy. A modern library with a fab wooden spiral staircase, the library is another space we’ve had the pleasure of working and exhibiting in.


Rose Lipman Building

The Rose Lipman Building is a poster child for 1960s architecture and planning policy. It is also home to new experimental arts initiative Open School East – a study programme and residency for 12 associate artists and a communal activity space.

One of the OSE activities is Parallel Radio: a self-organised and informal group of radio enthusiasts who produce a fortnightly live Internet radio show. One of our panel speakers – DJ and former owner of Four Aces, Newton Dunbar, is a regular contributor.

The Rose Lipman Building2