Saved – Our Stour. Hackney Wick Comes Good.

Commune Festival hands touching logo pic
Picture: Rachel Sweeney (Insta @rs_uk)

ALMOST. There’s a sting in the tale…

This weekend a lot of Hackney Wick folk came together in a grassroots community response to the threat of losing Stour Space. The Commune Festival was thrown together in a week by local people who wanted to keep this creative community hub and a legacy of the DIY warehouse live-work culture that was used to regenerate the area.

I led a fundraising walk where we discussed the obvious tour subjects like the area’s rich social history, but also we dived into subjects like culture-jamming, the commoditisation of culture and the elephant in the room of landlordism in a society obsessed with property. We pondered how to keep the good stuff in a city that is always changing?

Sometimes I think we underestimate people: everyone intuitively understood the concepts we discussed and had a point of view.

From street artists with a view on gentrification to disappeared buildings, we reconstituted the space in a different way, subconsciously following a psychographic ‘golden thread’ like William Blake. We didn’t build Jerusalem, but we revisited a time when it might have been, in an artistic village called the Wick.

We also acknowledged the invisible walls here. Not everyone is getting a slice of the new East London or has been part of the art wave. My response to the ‘local pain for national gain’ of London 2012 the Hackney Wall recognised that some walls are invisible yet still divide communities.

Commune Festival group on tow path Wick pic

Commune Festival will continue over the summer as a strategic initiative now that – for the time being – #SaveOurStour has achieved its objective. The art auction on Sunday was the moment when it was announced to cheers that the *initial* funding objective had been achieved and the phenomenal amounts of rent that were needed to keep the landlords happy had been secured.

…Except now they want three months in advance so there is still some distance to go…

Art works donated to the campaign by Hackney Wickers and a few names like Noel Fielding were taken away by a crowd of happy art-buyers – many of them local artists themselves. If we are not to kill the golden goose that has laid the regeneration egg, then we need to be careful not to casually dispose of the instrumentalised artistic and alternative community now that they have made Hackney Wick a mainstream attraction and a desirable destination for homebuyers.

Hackney Wick used to have something of East Berlin about it. Now, like East Berlin, property speculation is slowly crowding out the alternative culture that made it so great in the first place. ‘Blandification’ looms. Hopefully, as the likes of Grow and Stour Space hang on, we can keep some of the good stuff in the place you normally find the really juicy esoterica: in the urban cracks and fissures of the city.

The struggle to #SaveOurStour goes on, in public and behind the scenes. Follow the Stour Space website for news and stay tuned for more Commune Festival events this summer.

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