Now only a single tower block and a couple surrounding low-rises, Nightingale Estate sits at the top of Hackney Downs Park, descretely tucked away behind the trees that line the perimeter of the park. You hardly notice it today or consider that it’s even there. But, prior to it’s demolition in the early noughties, the Nitingale estate was one of the larger and more notorious estates in East London, and if you went to Hackney Downs park back in those days you would’ve of felt it.  The 6 now demolished brutalist blocks that used to line the top of the street would’ve had a profound effect on the visual landscape when compared to today. Along with the sheer amount of people from those blocks and surrounding  low income housing that would’ve frequented the park contributing to the community aesthetic of the time.

It’s hard to imagine it if you weren’t around then, and compared to video, photo’s can only do so much. Although, I did come across this flick from the 80s of a group of some random group of friend on the estate which had something about it…

nitingale 80s.png

Fortunately thought after discovering some old news footage shot in the park, I got more a immersive glimpse into that time the area in the 90s and a little bit more…

Hackney Downs Parks and Nightingale Estate of today…

hackney downs.jpgand the park back in the early 90s. Quite the contrast alie?

Rush Radio Image 1

Rush Radio Image 4

The news footage that these old images comes from is a report on the Nitingale Based Pirate Radio Station ‘Rush FM’ which was born, bread and illegally lived in those very blocks. The report focuses on a particularly mad story revolves around the extreme and slylee mental tactics the guys runnin the station use to keep the authorities from lockin them off.

DTI investigators task on there hands when they found the pirate station they were attempting to raid had been barracaded behind a wall of concrete, with its transmission equipment in a disused flat on the 21st floor of  another block. Contractors called in by the council to enable them to gain access to the flat hit a scaffolding pole wired up to the mains while attempting to drill through the concrete, causing a small explosion. Phials of ammonia and CS gas were also reported to have been found embedded in the concrete.  Those were the levels. Check the video below for more…

The Evening Standard were keeping up the usual fuckry when reporting on the raid as always. Branding the station and crew keeping the lights on as a “Drug Gang” and calling the station a “Fortress” to provoke their typically scandalous reasons…

rush newspaper

The time-capsule pirate radio journey of discoveries, as the Hackney History blog  had some extra links to another interesting little piece from 90s archives on another Hackney station. Who weren’t taking the same measures to stay on the airwaves, but were equally as credible, arguably more widely renowned.

Rush Radio Image 2

Kool FM was also originally based around Hackney and Tower Hamlets and is one of the longest running pirates in the world, having broadcast pretty much continuously since 1991. This documentary on Kool FM features a few other pirates from 1996 alongside a police officer from Stoke Newington station on a Station FM phone in which you can check out below.


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