aposto-logoPazar, 2 Nisan 2023
Pazar, Nisan 2, 2023
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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.'

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A weekly journal of neighbourhoods to dig into urban culture, people stories, and sociocultural dynamics. In every issue, we meet an inhabitant in their hood where they live, create or belong.