News (and stuff) from London E3

Sunday 1 August 2010

Hackney Wicked

Hackney Wicked FestivalWhere's the epicentre of East London's creative community? Brick Lane? More a tourist trap than an arts hub. Shoreditch? No longer as cool as it once thought it was. Try Hackney Wick. Its winding streets and graffiti-ed warehouses are home to more contemporary arty folk than you might expect, and this weekend they're throwing their doors open as part of the Hackney Wicked Festival. A damned impressive amount of cultural stuff is on show. More than 600 artists' studios are open (go on, any other part of London, beat that), and you're free to wander around and have a look. Just-painted canvases, quirky sculptures, mucky workdesks with nibbles on, that sort of thing. Some of the old buildings are more interesting than the art (sorry), including the opportunity to walk up three or four floors for a nice view over the Olympic Park. One gallery has bands playing on the roof, plus sofas for slouching in, plus astroturf and beer; another is hosting a fake church fete complete with tea and cakes. There are two main foci, one around Hackney Wick station and the other on Fish Island. In the former, it was great to see the derelict Lord Napier pub opened up, and Queen's Yard given over to a market with live music and food [homemade chocolate brownie from endearingly amateur bakers, tick]. In the latter, minor road closures gave rise to impromptu street parties, again with music, crafts and drink much in evidence [plastic beaker of Pimms poured by lady wearing lampshade, tick]. Forman's salmon smokery was open, with access to a roof terrace and the chance to look round their permanent top floor art gallery [smoked salmon bagel cooked by chef in the street, yum]. The whole event was packed with hipsters and beardykids, average age about 30 I'd have said, which made me feel a bit like I wasn't target audience. But I spent far longer looking round than I expected, and got to explore several non-pristine buildings I'd only ever walked past never dreaming I'd get inside. If you go today be warned that Hackney Wick station is closed, and that the event's website frequently collapses due to excessive demand. But never mind, just turn up and collect the excellent programme/map, and you won't miss a thing. Watch out in particular for the Coracle Regatta on the Lea (2-6pm), and a demonstration by the Hackney Wick Cold War Re-enactment Society (noon-3pm), and a closing procession to "Burn the Wicker Man" (ends 9:30pm). And pray that nobody ever sanitises and commercialises this end of town, because it's wicked as it is.

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