The changing face of Hackney: new documentary tackles gentrification in the borough

Film shop owner interviewed in Living in Hackney. Pic: Damien Swaby

The impact of gentrification in Hackney on the lives of its citizens is the focus of a new short documentary released this month.

The film, titled Living in Hackney, was made by London-based filmmaker Damien Swaby. It highlights a diverse range of people living in Hackney, showcasing how gentrification in the borough has impacted them.

Swaby, whose previous films have covered other important social issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK, decided to tackle gentrification because he felt the need for these individual stories to be told.

He told ELL: “People need to think about these things in certain ways because the outcome of having a gentrified city probably is not going to be one that a lot of people are going to like. If you gentrify Camden, or Brixton for example, it all becomes just one thing rather than pockets of individual characters and individual people.”

Homeless man in Living in Hackney. Pic: Damien Swaby


Still from Living in Hackney. Pic: Damien Dwaby

Addressing the importance of making a film about gentrification, he said: “We’re living in times now where decent working people are in a situation where not only their homes are being practically taken away from them and they’re being pushed out where they’re from, but they’re actually being pushed out to places where there isn’t anywhere to go.”

Swaby chose to cover Hackney in particular because he had heard people were “very upfront in terms of who is enjoying it here, and who is feeling the brunt of these changes.”

In the film, Hackney residents have a mixed response to the question of gentrification. One woman speaks about how the “yuppies are taking over”, while another says: “it’s not been over gentrified yet, it feels real, it feels authentic.”

However speaking about his experience, Swaby discovered that the situation in the borough was “actually much worse than I originally thought. This because it is so widespread and similar to places like Brixton and Peckham.”

Still from Living in Hackney. Pic: Damien Swaby.

Gentrification in Hackney and London overall has been an ongoing debate, with Hackney seeing the largest housing increase in the country in average prices per sq. m this summer. It was also revealed that the borough is among the top five areas in the country for social mobility. This is not the first time that artists have expressed their opinion on the matter through their different mediums. This year, artists in Hackney Wick have also taken part in a gentrification-themed street-art battle.

Since its release, Living in Hackney has received a lot of supportive feedback, as viewers took to Twitter to express their opinions of the film.

It is due to be shown at the Hackney Film Festival and is going to be distributed on streaming services based in North America. Swaby also plans to make a longer film about the gentrification of London as a whole in the near future.

Twitter: sophiaankel



One Response

  1. Harry Howat February 26, 2019

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