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Are they WickED or just misunderstood?

Portrait of Steven Woods, by J Piddock

Can you even begin to imagine how this feels? I’ve never really asked much of life. All I’ve asked was to live, to experience things as much as I could.I wish I had the time and energy to tell…what my life was, so that maybe someone would miss it when its gone.

The words are taken from a letter which hangs beside a portrait in a new exhibition at the Britania Works gallery in Hackney Wick. The portrait is of a bulbous-featured man with dark messy hair, with a cigarette hanging limply from his mouth.

The man is Steven Woods, he has been on Death Row in Texas since 2002; the letter holds his words. He was convicted of murder last year when, aged 21, he and another man killed two people in a robbery.

The exhibition is the work of two young Hackney-based artists, Jessica Piddock and Isabelle McEvoy and showcases a series of letters written to Ms Piddock by a number of Death Row inmates.

There are nine portraits on the walls which the artists copied from photos sent by the inmates, each mounted beside a page from their letter; some inmates write about their lives before death row, some protest their innocence, others admit guilt.

Piddock and McEvoy also shredded copies of 14 letters into strips and wove them to make a prison uniform. The portrait collection is entitled ‘Just Us’, and the prison garb is entitled ‘Still My Murder Will Appease Them’, both the names are phrases lifted from the letters.

One of the inmates who wrote to them had been on death row for 33 years.

Ms Piddock, 26, said: ‘I wanted to do something to enable a connection between the audience and people otherwise ignored by society.”

Piddock’s previous work has centered on marginalised and ostracised individuals, such as Victorian criminals and people who have gone missing.

She added: ‘‘Execution is the most extreme form of being ostracised by society. I wanted to give these otherwise ignored people an opportunity to voice their stories and raise their profiles.’’

The exhibition is on display at Britannia Works, in Dace Rd, Hackney Wick, until Sunday as part of the Hackney WickED Festival, which is itself under the banner of the CREATE10 arts festival in the five Olympic boroughs.

The show opens with a private view today, Friday 30th July 6.30 – 8.30 pm. The exhibition continues Saturday 31st July & Sunday 1st August 12 – 6pm at Brittania Works, Top Floor, Dace Rd, Hackney Wick, London, E3 2NG. Hackney Wick Overground, Buses 276 & 488

Now in its third year, the Hackney WickED festival provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved in something creative. Spanning the whole weekend, the Stour Space corner carnival, situated on Roach Road and Beachy Road, in Hackney Wick, supports local up and coming artists and entrepreneurs by giving them space to exhibit their work. With live art shows and a designers market, this event is certain to keep everyone entertained – and there are wood workshops for the kids too. Alternatively, there is always the option to sit back and relax in the midst of the hustle and bustle in the vibrant beer garden with, freshly cooked BBQ food as part of the Counter Café

Tomorrow, Saturday, 31 July, between 1pm and 4pm, local artist Akane Takayama will be showing a sculpture installation of 250 model dogs at Clissold Park in Stoke Newington. At the end of the installation, you will be able to take a model home and own a piece of this public art.  Further details: Jack Adams. Email: dog@takethepebble.com; 07917526996. view website

And on the same day the Field Day Festival at Victoria  Park in Hackney, features among many act including, the incredible Hypnotics, the brass ensemble from Chicago who went down a storm at Glastonbury.  The festival is run by Eat Your Own Ears, Adventures In The Beetroot Field, Bugged Out! and Bloggers Delight.  Tickets are £33.33.

Elsewhere, Keep Me Posted has opened a new gallery at 67 Wilton Way Hackney with work by Angus Fairhurst + Tracey Emin + Rachel Whiteread + Julie Cockburn among others. It opens from 11am-5pm.

The Festival closes with the 5th annual Hackney Wick Coracle (a boat made of wicker) Regatta on Sunday 1st August from 2-6pm. Families can sit and enjoy refreshments and a full commentary of the boat race while cheering on the competitors. The trophy at the end certainly adds a competitive element to the race.

More information: Hackney Wicked Festival 2009 video by Mary Adeline Royal:
http://vimeo.com/9071043

The Hackney Wicked Art Festival – Hackney Wick, Friday 30 July – Sunday 1 August. Stour Space, 7 Roach road, Fish Island, Hackney.

London, United Kingdom, E3 2PA Overground: Hackney Wick station is within walking distance from Saturday 20 February, Monday 31 there will be no trains running between Gospel Oak and Stratford on the Overground, but rail replacement services run every half hour. Pudding Mill Lane is also within walking distance and has good connections to North and South London. Buses: 26, 30, 236, 276, 488, 388. Night bus: 26. Cycle routes: River Lee with links from the Regents Canal and the Hertford Union.

www.stourspace.co.uk, www.thecountercafe.co.uk, www.formans.co.uk

Elsewhere, if you are still sad about the World Cup, here’s a better chance to win at the footie; Lewisham council, in collaboration with Millwall community scheme, are putting on football training classes for young people.  They’ve got soccer schools for boys and girls, sporty stuff for toddlers, plus striker and goalie masterclasses for talented players at training grounds across the borough. Visit the Millwall Community website for more details.

Additional reporting by Amy Lacey

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