Future Hackney finds Covid-safe way to celebrate community

A man stood in a deserted street. Pic: Don Travis

A Hackney-based visual art collective has launched a year-long public street exhibition honouring Ridley Road locals. 

Future Hackney, a visual art collective dedicated to documenting the social changes in the borough of Hackney has managed to set up a safe way to showcase their work during the pandemic by displaying their images on a wall alongside the famous Red Cross Building on Dalston Lane.

Ridley road stories part 1, Future Hackney’s most recent project, regroups a series of 10 large portraits of people living and working of Ridley road, celebrating the vibrancy, culture and singularity of the life of this historical place the local community calls ‘’the beating heart of Hackney’’. 

For Donna Travis, founder of the collective this project is all about empowering providing representation through creativity and art. 

She told Eastlondonlines: ‘’We hope our work empowers the community, and also it is about representation. How often do we see our community on the walls? It is often just adverts of wealthy people generally ‘’

‘’This work is all about giving the people a voice and making sure the Ridley Road community is visible. ‘’ 

A woman and three young children walking down a street. Pic: Wayne Crichlow

Travis, a visual artist, founded Future Hackney with four other artists including Wayne Crichlow, who was selected to participate in season 3 of Sky Arts program, Master of Photography. 

The three- year old collective, with over 7.000 followers on Instagram is not only locally famous for their working but also for training and scouting young people interested in visual arts. The collective also provides access and funds for these people to create projects and work alongside them to document Ridley road. 

Elvine Ohlala, young videographer, model and local seamstresses received a bursary from the collective to create her own costume out of African print fabric found on Ridley road market to realise a photoshoot and a video. 

A young women walking down the street, staring into camera. Pic: Chris Andreou

Besides helping the Hackney artists of tomorrow, Future Hackney takes pride in its close and trusted relationship with their community. Over the past three years, the collective has been organizing workshops teaching locals how to use film cameras and allowing them to print photographs and photo shoots that are sometimes compensated to thank individuals for their time. 

Travis said: “It is really about investing in the community. Not just going in as visual artists documenting them and then pulling away. It is about getting their feedback on the photographs, getting them to think about stories, narratives and creating opportunities wherever we can. 

‘’We wouldn’t have been able to be so successful if the community wasn’t so involved. 

“We made sure to engage with the community and develop a trusting relationship with the residents and getting them to understand what this was about. This is not a commercial venture we are not in this for profit. All the money we get is being re-invested in the project .’’ 

A man kneeling in the street as people walk by. Pic: Wayne Crichlow

Future Hackney’s main goal is to document Hackney throughout its changes due to the gentrification of the area, which is putting spaces like Ridley road; inner cities communities with such Afro- Caribbean historical and cultural weight in a vulnerable state. 

Travis stated: “We know that we can’t fight gentrification. This happening it doesn’t matter how many banners we put up. But what our argument is okay we know it is going to be gentrified, we see the new coffee shops, the inner market was bought. We can’t stop that, it is a global phenomenon. 

“What we are saying is that the road should be recognized as a cultural and historical place of the Afro-Caribbean community”

“We are going to keep photographing the Ridley as long as it is there, it is diminishing bit by bit, but we are quite interested in documenting as it changes because that is part of the story.”

Two women and a child. Pic: Brunel Johnson

Ridley Road stories – part 1 is the first chapter of a series of one or two other public exhibitions to be launched in 2021. As Future Hackney is currently working alongside Hackney Council and the Arts Council to produce part two of Ridley Stories on a wall near Dalston Kingsland station. 

The exhibition launched on November 6th will be available until November 2021 at British Red Cross, 92 Dalston Lane, E8 1NG. 

A man shows his rings to the camera. Pic: Don Travis

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