A new exhibition has been launched at Hackney Museum to celebrate the borough’s fiftieth birthday.
‘Hackney@50: The People’s Choice exhibition,’ features fifty objects, selected by local people, that show what the borough means to them.
London-based ‘Culitivater’ Lucia Scazzochio has created one part of the exhibition in a series of audio and visual portraits of shopkeepers.
The series portraits are meant to show an unknown side of the Narrow Way near Hackney Central.
Lucia says ‘It’s a street that is dying.’
She says that it used to be a main shopping hub in the area, but ‘now it’s become a kind of through way with a lot of pound shops, betting shops.’
There’s also a Marks & Spencer and a Primark.
Although Hackney Council has invested funds into sprucing up the area and adding benches to make the Narrow Way more appealing, Lucia says the offering of the shops is still limited.
Her series of portraits is a way to celebrate the few local shops that are still there.
These include Mohammad Hanif Shaikh’s local clothing shop, ‘Lookers,’ which sells saris, and Laurine Traquair’s ‘Pet Shop.’
Some of the shopkeepers in the exhibit are originally from abroad, and some have long family histories in Hackney.
Many of these stories include long journeys to the UK, and to becoming established in the community.
All the shopkeepers Lucia interviewed have been in the area for at least thirty years.
The shopkeepers noted the sense of community they feel in Hackney, but they also felt the changes that come with gentrification and the digital age.
Scazzochio first had the idea for this exhibition after organizing ‘pop up’ radio stations with local councils in Poplar and Hackney.
These radio stations were a way for the local councils to gauge community concerns, and also for local people to share their stories.
About the station in Poplar, Lucia Scazzochio said:
The incredible thing about that… it was three consecutive Saturdays. From those Saturdays, the team who wanted this information got more information from just speaking publicly to these people than filling in questionnaires or going to meetings and all that kind of thing.
Although she was happy to engage the local community, she also wanted to hear the voices of small business owners:
That’s all very well, we’ve got the public talking, but what about all these local shopkeepers. No one’s really asking them what they thin . What they’re going to tell me isn’t going to be the same thing as what they tell their local councillor.. . they have lots of complaints. They have lots of issues. But what about their story? Where they come from, who they are.
She pitched the idea to the Hackney Council Regeneration Team, and received a small budget from the Team as well as the Hackney Museum to create her portraits.
Lucia does not expect her exhibition to save the shops, but she hopes it will make people more aware of their local history:
We make a big fuss about pop up shops and these new businesses coming in…But this guy’s been doing it for three generations, and he knows what he’s doing. So shouldn’t we be celebrating that?