Saturday, August 01, 2009

Community Use: Hackney WickED vs The 'Stow

new community use area in Walthamstow; phto by Val PhoenixLiving in an Olympic borough, as I do, one exists among the stark juxtaposition of the haves and have-nots: loads of cranes, shiny hoardings and hype of a global event, contrasted with the squalor, unemployment and despair of an historically deprived area.

As Hackney WickED, an arts festival in its second year, shows, one can do a lot with one's surroundings. Bordering the Olympic construction, Hackney Wick holds a concentration of artists living in an industrial area which was pretty much a wasteland 10 years ago. No shops, no cafes, just one bus route and a canal, plus a lot of abandoned buildings.

Now it's the new Shoreditch, full of artists' studios and galleries and right on the edge of what will be a global hotspot come 2012. Regeneration or gentrification is the question.

To be fair, some of the artists are questioning the changing of the area themselves. One exhibit, the Museum of Hackney Wick, looks at the changes in the area and casts them as historical exhibits, to be picked over by future inhabitants.

Meanwhile, up in sunny Walthamstow, we have a newly opened "community use" area (see photo). After years of walking past a boarded-up derelict lot on the corner of High Street and Hoe Street, I can now walk through an empty paved lot, utterly devoid of character or personality.

Yes, after years of consultation and planning, the council has, in essence, built a car park. Genius. This, truly, is progress. And since we're in an Olympic borough, maybe by 2012 it'll be rebranded as an Olympic community use area.

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