Hackney resident and world-renowned street artist Stik has played a key role in launching a series of events in Hackney to celebrate LGBT history month, organised by the council.
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville hosted a celebratory reception at the Hackney Museum in Reading Lane on Wednesday February 1. The focus was on looking at how the council could further improve LGBT relations within the borough.
Stik, whose prominent street art can be seen all over the borough, spoke openly about being a gay and at one point homeless artist living in Hackney, before introducing a short film about one of his most iconic pieces, the Hackney Pride Banner.
Commissioned by Hackney council, the banner was designed to represent the borough at the 2016 gay pride parade. Manufactured by Flagmakers, who also make flags for the Queen, the banner soon became a symbol for LGBT pride both nationally and internationally.
The colourful artwork depicts two stick figures, holding hands over a rainbow backdrop in the artist’s signature style. He has previously described this as, ‘the quickest way to replicate the human form without getting caught’. Stik also spoke of how his art enabled him to speak to the world when he didn’t have a voice. “I was making something soft on the hard streets, and in a way it made me feel safer,”he said.
The prominent street artist also shared his memories of the queer ‘safe house’ community in Dalston. “The artists, queers and freaks banded together but Hackney was rough at that time. Being openly queer was not safe, but we did it anyway. I was beaten unconscious five minutes from this spot for wearing nail varnish, and still get ringing in my ear from time to time,” he revealed candidly.
Although the area has changed as dramatically in its appearance as in its attitudes towards the LGBT+ community, Stik agrees there is still always work to be done.
He told East London Lines: “I don’t want to really disrespect the Hackney of old… But Hackney has changed a lot. It hasn’t always been safe. It hasn’t always been safe to be out in Hackney.”
The image of two lovers on the side of the queer safe house in Dalston Lane, which Stik painted to commemorate their eviction notice, issued on Valentine’s Day 2011, can still be seen. However, the building is due to be demolished in the near future.
The Hackney Pride banner is currently on display at the Hackney Museum and will be auctioned later on this year at Christie’s. The proceeds will help to fund LGBT+ projects within the borough in the form of a grant.
This year’s celebrations also commemorate 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.
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