Monday, July 01, 2013

Back to The Wick

The view from Mother Studios over Hackney Wick; photo by Val Phoenix
As we now mark the first full year of the much-touted Olympic legacy, it's sobering to consider just how much the face of East London has changed. Though deemed unsalubrious, unlovely or any other property market euphemisms, the area has always provided a home for the resourceful, the quick-witted, and, indeed, at times, the desperate. I count myself in all of those categories, as I have moved around almost all of the E postcodes during my time in London in search of some place to settle.

So it was that I found myself last night standing on the fifth floor of Mother gawping out the window across the canal at the Olympic site, tracing the path of a road I lived on many years ago crossing over the tiny bridge and.... stopping dead in its tracks at the gate to the site. Everything on the other side levelled and reduced to pavement. Wow. I hadn't seen it that way in my head.

My visit was occasioned by a screening at The Lab, an experimental film festival in Hackney Wick's booming artistic quarter. The screening started late, hampered by good weather (oh, the irony) and another screening next door. But, eventually the audience, some ensconced in inner tubes on the floor, was treated to a few of the week's winning films, as well as a selection of locally produced shorts. I had heard a lot about Hilary Powell's The Games but had never seen the whole piece, and found it a mix of amusing absurdity and trenchant comment on the nature of gentrification. Clays Lane, the allotments, those strange tyre factories. Gone.

This is what has become of Hackney Wick since I left ten years ago. Artists' warehouses, a party scene, and on the other side, the commercial behemoth of Olympic regeneration. It's an uneasy mix, even if the hipsters flocking to Crate and other businesses can enjoy better transport links and amenities than in days of yore. Still..... one sometimes yearns for the sense of post-apocalyptic tranquility that used to hang over the area back then.

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