So Hackney Wick then, Fish Island and the rabbit warrens of lovely old buildings, spaces and places unwanted and unloved for years, well besides by the artists who have loved them and live in them, worked in them and created in them for the last twenty or so years. Yesterday was the Saturday of this year’s always looked-forward -to Hackney WickEd weekend.
Well it wasn’t really WickEd, well not officially anyway, Two years ago, after an enforced break for Olympic year (the Hackney Wick area really is in the shadow of the Olympic stadium), it was the return of those almost spontaneous set of street parties, all art studios, sound systems, sitting in the street with friends watching performance, exploring the open galleries, dancing with strangers, watching street art emerge, people coming together, creativity, spontaneous fun and more. Last year we started to feel things change, that creep of gentrification, “I hated seeing security guards on the studio doors” said one painter as she talked of the high-end fashion designers who had started to move in by the time last year’s event came around. Last year didn’t quite feel the same, last year was still good though, still lots of art, lots of good people, lots of creativity, change was in the air though, not quite so much of the slightly anarchic and the positively creative doing-of-things-our-way vibe.
And this year? This year the Hackney WickEd weekend isn’t officially happening, this year the authorities have hit the organisers with outrageous demands in terms of policing costs, clean up costs, you can’t do that costs, killjoy costs, everything now must be sanitised and come with a corporate logo (see that soul-sucking Kopparberg take over just by the railway station and their hideous Urban Forest stuff-pushing space invasion).
And so the much loved annual weekend Hackney WickEd festival isn’t quite “officially” happening this year. What did happen yesterday (and throughout the weekend) was lots of coordinated open studios, lots of events happening at the same time throughout the weekend, lots of gallery openings, installations, spontaneous use of space, things like Den-City (n the Formans yard) or the Hackney WickEd commissioned Exo//Schizm performance at the Stour Space complex. The whole thing was quietly billed as the Hackney WickEd Open Studios weekend. The crowds weren’t so big this year, publicity was a little more low key, no stages or sound systems in the street and in some ways, far more time and space to actually get in to some of the studios and actually enjoy exploring the meat of the place. And Hackney Wicked is about exploring, exploring for what could be the last time. The ethos is ‘let’s enjoy it it while we can’. The weekend was about exploring the many art studios and such that are under serious threat now. The redevelopment, the gentrification, the rent hikes and such really is all starting to squeeze Fish Island now, several of the bigger studio buildings are earmarked, notice has been given to quit, long leases negotiated when no one else wanted the spaces or the land are now coming to an end, office conversions on the the way, sanitised tech hubs and PR companies replacing the genuine creative flow – enjoy it now, this is still a special place, enjoy it while you can.
There’s very little traffic in Hackney Wick, the old buildings of the Peanut Factory, of Mother Studios, the White building and the like are alive with such character, this is still a very a creative place and yes, while it is still here you really should celebrate it all. Enjoy the feel in Hackney Wick, people aren’t rushing through in their cars to get to somewhere else (you can’t really, Fish Island really is a little cut off). Enjoy this place, people are doing things, making things, and in those studios (next to the scrap yards or the mechanics in their oil-stained garages), in those studios waiting to be explored there really is some interesting art, some serious art, some exciting art, some stimulating people making significant art.. There’s something rather good about visiting artists in their studios, it isn’t like going to a gallery, you get a real sense of the person, the work that goes in, the creative process (even if there is sometimes a feeling of things being cleaned up and staged just a little, the carefully arranged mess of the brushes and paint set out to impress us). Textile printers, sculptors, intense fine artists, pop artists, experimentalists, illustrators, all their in their warrens, and for a couple of days letting us in to their mostly private worlds. Impossible to explore it all, impossible to not get in to long friendly conversations, to join in and indulge in snippets, reasons why, impossible to start picking out the names of artists where did I put that card with her name on? Unfair to pick out artists like Dave Le Flemming or Cian O’Neil, Pallas Citroen’s Blonde on Blonde in Swartz Gallery, Thierry Noir’s new wall, unfair to start picking out names – this weekend was about the place as a whole, about enjoying a place while we still can, before our time is up, still lots of creativity to be found in East London. Yesterday was a great day, a day to “enjoy it while we can”, we’ll celebrate days like this and places and people like these when its all gone. We’ve already lost Vyner Street, most of Redchurch Street, East London is changing fast, not every change is bad of course, but most of it really is, and we artists know out time is almost up around here… Celebrate these times, this art, these old buildings, warehouses, these people and these creative spaces that birth so much… Hackney Wicked happened again this year, we had a great time, here, in random order,are some photos of the art, the people, the places (and a #365ArtDrop or two). We had a great time, we’ll miss these days, Saturday was great, no on with Sunday and more exploring… (SW)
.Click on an image to enlarge or run the random slide show… .