Hackney Wick – “have you seen a unicorn?”
This summer I discovered Hackney Wick whilst searching for a unicorn. All I knew previously was that this was where the artists who regenerated Shoreditch had relocated to after the developers moved in. I’m such a dummkopf not to have gone before because I found it be magical. And its no surprise really that mythical beasts like unicorns can be found there.
My unicorn hunt happened back in June after I’d seen a photograph of Faith47’s mural online. I had to see it for myself. The tricky part was that the maps I’d consulted were vague and I ended up by Hackney Wick studios instead of Old Ford Lock. “No problem I’ll ask”, I thought. I saw some young women taking a fag break, covered in paint and asked them. No, they hadn’t heard of it but I aroused their curiosity also. I spotted a young man sprawled by the canal taking photographs. “No, I’m just trying out my new camera,” he said. I stopped a third guy and he was happy to direct me to Fish Island but he too hadn’t heard of the unicorn.
The buildings on Fish Island are mainly warehouses, some which looked derelict and others were in use. It was a gloriously sunny afternoon and I felt like I was either in Florida or Australia. I don’t quite no why. Thankfully I stumbled across Stour Space, an art complex with cafe and a young woman who worked there knew where the unicorn was. And five minutes later I’d found it at the equally magically named Swan Wharf. Stunning and well worth getting lost to find it.
Hackney WickeD Festival, August 2014 – Celebrating Art
Of course they have a truly original art festival in Hackney Wick. Its a 3 day event and I popped along on Sunday afternoon. I only got a flavour of it because there is so much to see. You can visit artists in their studios, find live music, stumble across performances and watch street artists at work. There are food and drink stalls to sustain you but unlike on the Southbank, the focus on the art rather than dinning. I felt that this festival is about all creativity and self expression. And for this year at least, I didn’t spot a corporate logo funding this event. So I felt free and a sense of relief.
My photographs of my visit do focus mainly on the street art. My first visit was to see the finished painting of Paul Insect’s giant 3D bird which I spotted being painted the week before. This is what I saw prior to the festival.
And this is the finished piece with the work of other artists. And I love these young skateboarders who walked into my shot.
The empty public house, near Hackney Wick station, The Lord Napier was a giant canvas that weekend for street artists. The woman painting is called AR. And the creature with bug eyes in the middle of the shot is by Himbad.
As I walked passed my eye was drawn to this exotically coloured mythical beast that defies categorising and I snapped it – see below. (update artist of mythical beast is by Aida.) I love this random graff too “Hail Hipster.” I wish I got a shot clear of the handlebars but you get the idea.
There are studios right by the station and I ventured into the courtyard. Wrought iron steps and balconies allowed access to tiny studios on two floors. I hung around outside taking photographs, soaking up the atmosphere.
This chair is an artwork too. And it was free to sit on! The cool guy is not smiling.
I had set myself a second quest on that visit to the festival. I had to find a canal boat painted by Sweet Toof. I’d seen photographs of it online but I’d never seen it in the flesh.
There is an abundance sweet Sweet Toof in the area. First I came across this beauty. As I was waiting for a space to take a picture, I couldn’t understand why some people were standing with their backs to it and taking photos of a dull wall behind me. And then I realised… they were taking selfies.
I headed to Stour Place which by the canal and came across this new piece by Woozy.
Fish Island Riviera by the canal had become a tropical beach with fake palm trees, live music and drinks stalls and its own pirate ship. Along one wall were artists drawing and painting whilst we watched.
The guy with the hat had just finished drawing a giant bird with an umbrella. When I took this shot, I already had a shot of his painting but I wanted one of the setting. And although the exposure on this image is wrong, with a bit of post production trickery, I rather like the painterly result. You can see his delightful drawing in the following photograph.
And then I found my Sweet Toof canal boat moored by the fake beach. There was no access to the tow path right by the boat. I crossed over to the far side for a wide shot.
Once you are familiar with Sweet Toof’s pink gnashers you spot them everywhere. Walking back to Hackney Wick studios by the canal, I spotted this giant pair with beast attached.
As I made my way home, passing the Lord Napier again, there was a street performance going on and a crowd had gathered. It was just a guy with a mic playing all the instruments and rapping. He was funny though as you can see from this picture.
And up on a ladder was Himbad, painting another of his distinctive cat creatures.
I moved around to take a shot of him signing it underneath. A took a few but I prefer this one because of the not one but two sets of couples below posing for photographs which I hadn’t initially noticed because I was watching Himbad. Again, the serendipity of live street photography.
I’d stumbled across these really whacky street musicians when I arrived and was looking around the studios. Here they were again. And they had different hats!
And then I spotted this clash of two worlds as this other couple simply walked through dressed as if they’d escaped from the Amish. Which they possibly had because further along was the Secret Cinema set for their Back to the Future extravaganza. They don’t look like there other festival goers. Or maybe they were part of the show.
These final shots are self explanatory. It was a great event and I look forward to catching it in more detail next year. Thanks to Inspiring City blog for whetting my appetite and nudging me to try it out.