Hackney Wick and Fish Island: then and now
Hackney Wick and Fish Island is an area of land in East London, situated around the Hertford Union Canal and the Hackney Cut, close to Old Ford, Bow and since 2012, the new Olympic Park. In the 19th and early 20th centuries it was a busy industrial area producing silk, plastic and shellac. And the island area was home to Percy Dalton’s Peanut Factory and Forman’s fish smoking plants. Its not an actual island but a loop of land bordered by the canal and the River Lea. And it gets the name from its fishy street names: Dace, Bream, Smeed, Monier and Roach. Once the industries closed down, the area became a quiet backwater and the artists moved in.
The old industrial units were cheap to rent and made for great artist’s studios. By 2009 there were 600 artists’ studios there boasting the reputation of the largest artistic community in Europe. But the area’s proximity to the new Olympic Park has made it a prime spot for property developers and the area is changing big time.
This is what I saw when I visited in July this year.
And when I returned late November, I saw that further demolition had taken place and more hoardings had gone up. But I wasn’t there to mourn the end of the area. I wanted to see a new mural from one of my favourite street artists, Pang.
Hackney Wick and artist Pang
When I first started noticing street art, I was surprised that in amongst the graphic art, illustration and graffiti, were some classical images and this intrigued me. One of the first works I spotted was this painting by Pang in Hackney Wick. And I’ve been a huge fan of her work since then.
Earlier this year Pang left London but she returned in November contribute a work to a series of paintings on the hoardings on Fish Island. So I went to see her work for myself.
When I arrived, I wasn’t sure exactly where the new mural was was so I roamed around and noted the changes going on.
Hackney Wick and Fish Island: Buildings coming down and going up
I arrived from Stratford and walking down White Post Lane, this wall hit me with its angry, passionate images. Love 4 London is written on the banner from the clothes peg.
I turned left down by the canal and snapped this new block of flats going up. “Redwine” and the wine glass is a reference to the type of people who might buy these flats.
When I arrived on Fish Island I saw that most of it has now been demolished. The flats you see in the distance have been there since I first visited in 2014. Its the old industrial units which have now gone.
The art you can see on the hoardings wasn’t from any artists I already knew. And it’s contained in limited spaces. They are part of this project, Your Work Here from Creative Wick who are the agency in charge of regenerating the area. It all felt very sanitised compared to the work I was more familiar with. Looks like others thought so too because its been heavily tagged.
I continued on towards Stour Place and spotted this depressing notice on the door, No Graffiti PLS, Thx. Only four months earlier it was adorned by one of Himbad’s cool cats. Which would you prefer?
Around the corner, this was scrawled on the wall which sums up 2016 rather well.
As you can see, some people are not happy. These units look empty now. On the wall with the graff, you can see the feet of one of Neoh’s ballet dancer’s poking out at the bottom.
Then I remembered snapping Neoh’s ballerina on previous visit and dug it out of my photo archive. And what I also love about this work is that he’s painted over the graff. Usually its the other way around, with the graff tagged on the street art.
Fish Island and “the writing on the wall” 2014
Those who lived and worked here knew this change was coming. On my first visit to the area in June 2014, I took this photograph but didn’t understand its significance until now. This must be a reference to the artistic community which was built up here and the destruction of it that has now arrived.
Fish Island and the 2016 street art hoardings
Further along this road, I found the new work from Pang that I’d been looking for. It was part of marathon paint jam along the hoardings on this stretch of road and around another corner to Swan Wharf on the River Lea. I’ll post them in sequence without any commentary.
The hoardings art then continues around the corner to the left (to the right in the photograph above.)
I walked back up passed the work again to return the way I’d come. And I noticed far more graffiti than I’d ever seen around here before.
And I wonder what the area is going to look like next year. When I first visited Hackney Wick and Fish Island in 2014, it was a glorious sunny day, and the low level buildings around the canal gave the area a mediterranean feel. As the new buildings may well be higher, that sense of space and light will be lost.
And yes, London does need more homes but I hope they will be affordable homes.
East End Waterways Group: fighting further changes to bridges over the canal
This local action group are lobbying the development agencies to save the two existing bridges to retain the view and character of the area. You can read about what is happening here East End Waterway Group
As I departed Fish Island, I took one last look at a few stickers by some other hoardings. This image says it all for me. The artist Pamgood2 was visiting from the USA this summer when she slapped her sticker on the post. Later on, the workmen dripped paint over it as they buffed the hoardings dark grey. There is no art work on this long stretch of boards.