Hackney Wick was a town where daytime factory workers and artists returning home in the evening met at bus stops. A place where warehouses were communal living and production spaces and where there was not so much sign of life other than people returning home from nameless parties. Once home to foxes and dogs as pets, Hackney Wick became one of the recent targets of urban regeneration after the opening of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Boat homes parked on the Lee River
Tagged closed shutters have become real estate agents, and photos of houses sold for £500-600-700 thousand are on display. Around the corner, we come across Oslo House under the sign of Hackney Wick. We will meet with Meriç (Canatan), one of the residents of this commune who resists transformation, does not want to give up the culture of cohabiting and has won for now. Soon.
THE HOOD: We talked to Meriç Canatan about the gentrification process of Hackney Wick (Wick, as the locals call it), where factories smoke during the day and the canal-side fire smokes at night, and the transformation of collective production from warehouses into streets and showcases.
GEMSTONE: Today, we hung out at Hackney Wick Underground, a neighbourhood market open during the weekdays. In the next ‘I'm a Regular’ issue, you will find courtyard parties, canal-side stops, and coffees with their own radio.
4 SEASONS: Stretching across 86 hectares in the middle of the city, it is green during spring. It is an oasis for those interested in dendrology. In autumn, it contains all shades of orange, yellow, and terracotta within itself.
AN ARBITRARY GUIDE: To Hackney Wick, as the locals would call it 'Wick'. We are in the search of a winsome tune, turning into a melody that lasts.
Resistance and transformation with Wick
The Neighbourhood: Hackney Wick. Resident: Meric Canatan. Photos: Hazal Yilmaz.
Smoke! But there's no fire brigade, no fire panic. Just a sign of life inside one of the boat houses parked by the canal. I don't know if it's the smell of chestnuts or the pile of wood stacked on the deck. Right next to it, a discount stall has opened. They sell enamelware that is no longer used before setting off. When I bargained, I got the stuff for a table for two, for £5. In the chorus of voices from the neighbourhood, there is the buzzing of drills, crane operators, and the residents' reactions in Wick. Broken glass in boxes, the clanking of those who carry home the table that is found in front of the neighbour's door with a ‘free’ post-it, which will be as good as new when polished, are among the other voices. The paint sprays of the mural architects, which change almost every week, also mix in the cappella.
While I was away, pubs, delicatessens, and Sainsbury's opened in the neighbourhood. Doh's doughnuts, open-door workshops for invitees only, and Sofar Sound still exist. ‘Can we find a new way of cohabiting as the city transforms?’ This question is on my mind. Many artists first moved here because it was cheap, and stayed because they were part of the creative commune that took shape together. ‘I first came to Wick at the end of 2011. It was an area not frequented by anyone but its inhabitants. The warehouses that have been no longer in use have been converted into houses where four, five, or even ten people live. The people you see on the street are employees who work in the factories during the day, wait for the bus in the evening, and walk home in quick steps. There are two grocery stores. There's also Crate, which brews its beer and only has a pizza menu to serve food to those leaving work, Vinyl Pump, the record store of my current roommate Hon, bicycle repair shops, and desolation. My first impressions...’ Meriç starts to explain. She studied design and does illustrations. She wants to live and settle in London. She started working at Erdem, and she covered the walls with her drawings in her own studio/house and made collages with what she cut out of magazines in the evenings. Behind iron gates, in windows with flashing red, orange, and yellow lights, she is a part of life that is not visible from the street.
Oslo House's inhabitant: Meriç Canatan
‘There were no nightclubs, no bars. Going out on a Friday night meant going to a house party a few blocks away or on the third floor of Oslo House where I lived, meeting faces you met on the street and smiled at, feeling like you were in a private show in front of an unfinished painting on the wall. The after-party was held around an enormous fire by the canal. With the Fish Islanders on the other side of the bridge.’
From Wick village to Olympic town
In the mid-2000s, Wick was one of the most common areas in Europe for artist studios. Painters, musicians, and writers lived, produced, and held local exhibitions in the warehouses here. In 2008, Hackney Wicked Wick and Fish Island brought the introverted structure to the street for the first time. West and south London meet the artists of Wick at this festival. Collectors, gallerists, and journalists followed them. In the following years, Hackney Wicked has become popular on lists of ‘things to do in London’, with the number of artists, venues, and events increasing each year.
'When the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park chose Stratford as the epicentre for the London Paralympics in 2012, it was the second step in the gentrification of Hackney Wick. Like in the Games, everything was preplanned. First, the Olympic town was established,’ Meriç says, when describing Wick's becoming a never-ending construction site. Increasing rents, apartments bought for investment purposes, and the process of evolving into a new lodging life...
Oslo House and Pearl
Is resistance an obstacle to transformation?
Migration has a different reason on everyone's agenda. Some refused to be part of urban regeneration, and some sold their houses and left, accepting the figures offered. Some returned home after Brexit. Some fled further north, south, east, and outside London. The migration story of Hackney Wick starts with the construction of the Olympic Park. Oslo House resists this process. They stand with lawyers hired together, with the rights acquired as tenants, with the urge not to leave the epicentre, not to give up the life built together. The central committee resists despite early Sunday construction noise, fights in formerly quiet neighbourhoods, and security cameras installed in courtyards.
Wick is transforming. Translators, filmmakers, and poets move into the vacant rooms in Oslo House. Neighbours continue to give each other bread bowls with chickpeas and quiches made with parsley grown on the terrace. The dogs of the daytime workers continue to be entrusted from the east wing apartments to friends in the west so that they are not left alone at home.
Art in the courtyards of Hackney Wick on the street
Does competition bring justice?
‘I still love being a resident of Wick,’ says Meriç. 'When I first arrived, I was afraid to walk at night and return home alone if I stayed elsewhere. Now the streets are lively and lit. You can chat with your friends while eating the slice you bought from the pizza place on the bench in front of it, and you can come across gallery openings, and jam session jazz nights. What used to be in the houses has now spilled out onto the streets and showcases. I think we are taking in newcomers to the neighbourhood and learning to live together. For example, in the summertime, we watch the football match on the giant screen in front of Pearl, and people from the street come to watch. I look behind me, and there are a hundred people. There is enthusiasm, an urge for togetherness. We socialise with those who moved in a year, 6 months, or 3 years ago. When the matches are over, they turn on the loudspeaker from the second floor, and Wick turns into a street party again when you don't expect it. Just like it once was. It may seem romantic to be nostalgic for the past when there was a grocery store and a pizzeria, but it was like a monopoly then too. Prices were going up, but we had to buy from them. Now, I think the competition comes with the opening of alternatives that has brought a kind of fairness. Who will sell at a better price, which shop will be more organic, and local, and which one will offer options that reduce the carbon footprint? No change is absolutely good or necessary. As long as the spirit of production and sharing that created Wick does not leave this place, we are here, multiplying.'
Hackney Wick Underground
This market combines lettuce from the neighbour's garden with the works of artists living in the neighbourhood. Second-hand markets are held in the garden when spring comes. Also, musicians from Wick perform here. In the mornings, we see people in Doh's coffee line trying to catch the overground subway. At noon, open sandwiches with beetroot and ricotta cheese made with sunflower oil are available at the counter. Oat lattes, which cost £3.10 in most places, are here for £2.50.
Hackney Wick's inhabitants
Sezen Aksu’s story to exhibit at X Media Art Museum by DasDas
X Media Art Museum, Turkey’s first high-tech digital art museum, is hosting an immersive exhibition diving deeper into Sezen Aksu’s life.
What is it? Sponsored by Fuga Mobilya and open until March 2023, the exhibition compiled of different experiences focuses on Sezen Aksu’s inspirational biography including her rise to fame after her arrival to Istanbul in the 70s, her creative period in the 80s, her pop music era in the 90s, and her bolder stance during the 2000s.
Noted: Areas designated for different experiences allow the visitors to write their own notes to the artist, creating a collaborative and interactive ground.
You may visit this link for further information and tickets.
Where are East Londoners in all seasons?
Stretching across 86 hectares in the middle of the city, it is green during spring. It is an oasis for those interested in dendrology. In summer, it is colourful with people spreading their gingham blankets on the grass. In autumn, it contains all shades of orange, yellow, and terracotta within itself. The winters are often windy, cold, and wet. Opened to the public in 1845, previously purchased by the Queen on the recommendation of the epidemiologist William Farr, Victoria Park was laid out by the city planner and architect Sir James Pennethorne in 1842 and is today a popular transit point for East Londoners.
In spring: The sun's rays appear a little earlier. Morning joggers and dog walkers can be seen in the Pavilion, queuing for coffee and bread.
In the summer: You cannot go to the festival. The festival has already come to the park, or the parks become festival grounds on the weekend. Home-made salads, wine, and beer from Victoria Village gather around the covers. Hammocks, frisbees, boombox skates, and skateboards. Climbing trees. These are the usual sights!
In Autumn: The city's most beautiful colours come out. Tour around the park's water, feed the ducks, and when it starts to get a little chilly, take shelter at the People's Park Tavern.
In winter: Darkness falls early. So, hang out at the market on Sundays. At 17:00, the destination is clear: Panna cotta-like spicy tofu at My Neighbours The Dumplings.
TO HACKNEY WICK TUNES
Today, we are wandering the streets of Wick, where the communal life in the warehouses has shifted to galleries and bars that open their doors to Queens Yard. We are following the beats, the tunes and the melodies of the neigbourhood.
Hackney Wick - Wick as it is known in the neighbourhood - where many asphalt, paper and silk factories were established, became the centre of artists' workshops in the 2000s and the base of many urban transformation projects after the construction of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Today, we are wandering the streets of Wick, where the communal life in the warehouses has shifted to galleries and music venues. The aim is to find where the jazz tunes and afro-beats are coming from.
Celebrating 8 Years of Grow, July 2022
Dance it up at the Grow
In London, it is not customary to party until the first light of the morning - of course, this doesn’t apply to the summer months, but it is pitch black at the moment. Pubs close their doors at 11:00 p.m. and nightclubs at 1:00 a.m. Grow in Hackney Wick is an exception to this. Here you can find live jazz jam on Thursdays; neo-soul, club 90s/00s; dancehall/ reggae/bashment, old school garage on Fridays; open mic poetry nights on Tuesdays or Matt Johnson, who is for the last 20-years, has been the keyboard player for Jamiroquai.
All My Friends, Record Shop open Wednesday-Sunday
The newest addition: All My Friends
"A place for the friends we have met along the way. A place for all the people we've yet to met." This is how co-founder Stuart Glen describes the space we are in. A record shop where you can buy, sell and listen to the dance tunes on a rainy afternoon; Sho Foo Doh cooking Japanese style okonomiyaki in the kitchen, serving small (un)familiar dishes; sourdough pizza from True Craft; a laid back, listening bar style hang-out where you keep being mesmerized by the music coming from the hi-fidelity sound system as we would describe.
Astounding line-ups at the Colour Factory
Orii Jam on Monday night until 11:55 p.m. (yes, you heard it well). HOWL hosting LGBTQ+ collectives. Secretsundaze kicking 2023 with a 1 January day rave. The Colour Factory has a wondrous way of lining up the night.
Music, painting, performance central: Open House Hackney
Artist residencies, exhibitions in the gallery on the ground floor, a multi-purpose events space & recording studio complex. On weeknights when you pass by the Open House Hackney, you can be captivated by an oboe performance and find yourself in an ongoing party.
Sofar Sounds at Two More Years, November
Let's stick around: Two More Years
Stour Space - closed. In search of a quiet place with coffee during the day, one of the locals suggested Two More Years. What a strange name we thought. Two more years was the time left in the contract when they opened it before the building would enter urban transformation. They are spending whatever time left opening exhibition spaces for local artists, boasting 11 studios for local creatives and dancing on weekends. Who knows, maybe Two More Years, like Oslo House, will win by resisting.
Thingy Radio is playing in the background
While waiting for your coffee or soup at Thingy, you can look at the works of local artists on the shelves around you and listen to reggae choirs in three-hour Spotify lists.
Crate Brewery, Brixton Radio Thursdays
Meet us at Queen's Yard!
Crate's own production beers, creative lamps made of quilt springs, Brixton radio’s residency vinyl nights every Thursday; concerts at The Colour Factory, even vegan markets; Old Street Brewery's nachos, cheering teams on match days and the courtyard environment in general. Queen’s Yard is the festival area of Hackney Wick, no matter what season it is.
We are in Michael Phelps' lane
The London Aquatics Centre, designed by Zaha Hadid Architecture for the Olympics, is the neighbourhood pool of Wick residents today. You feel as if you are swimming in the 50-metre lane following Michael Phelps. The music is coming from under the water this time if you have a nifty playlist. Here is one we have.
Continuing the amusement park spirit from where we left off in the 1990s!
Not all games are played on screens! There are still places where you can play by throwing coins into the machine like in the amusement parks of the 1990s. At Four Quarters you can find classics like Pac-Man, Street Fighter, Space Freebird, and Sega Rally. With a beer.
Travel and culture publication Soli, wander around places whose boundaries are set by hopes, not walls, as we become locals of places we haven’t visited before. We follow an inhabitant in their neighbourhood and listen to their stories of the smooth-talking shop owners, the best views of the sunset, and the streets full of surprises.
Today, we wandered around Wick warehouses, courtyards, and markets with Meriç Canatan. We talked about the need to take care of the neighbourhood while it’s changing through communication between old inhabitants and newcomers, and about the possibility of transforming together.
Follow us for the next routes: @soli.community