A well-loved street food and artisan trade market event in Hackney is closing after three years. EastLondonLines went to speak to the business owners shutting up shop.
Black-owned Hackney started three years ago when Bohemia Place Market and BlackEatsLDN came together to create a space for Black-curated businesses.
Samantha, the curator of Book Love – a multicultural travelling book caravan – has been participating in Black-owned Hackney since it launched in 2020. “I am really excited to be here,” she told ELL, “and really sad it is coming to an end today.” Book Love sells books about the different communities that live in the UK, but during this event, the stall was filled with books by authors of colour.
“I’m here today to bring amazing, beautiful, uplifting, conscious, positive, conscientious content to the people.” Book Love has travelled all across the UK on its own; but here at Black-Owned Hackney, it was part of a much bigger selection. Misti, who helps Samantha at the stall, said: “It is always one of our best events in London. This year has been especially busy.”
Strokes of Africa is an independent company specialising in selling contemporary, one-of-a-kind art sourced from artists across Western Africa. Charlotte, the curator of Strokes of Africa, said: “Our main aim is to work with local [African] artists and give them an opportunity to sell to a Western market at a fair price.”
She says showing the art here in the UK is important because when artists try to sell it back home, the buyers haggle so much that in the end artists earn next to nothing. “Strokes of Africa” offers a bespoke service: “We try to show African art in that high-end kind of way, because I feel like sometimes when it comes to African art, it’s not valued as well,” Charlotte said.
In the past, the art acquired by Strokes of Africa was not even valued by the artists themselves. A lot of artists wouldn’t even bother signing their paintings. “They didn’t understand the value of their paintings”, Charlotte said, “It was more about painting and selling for them, but it turned out to be a growing process for all of us. To get the artists to sign their paintings. And for us, to try and create a platform to elevate these artists.””
The owner of the brand The Journee of J’Rissa, who sells unique, handmade earrings from polymer clay had joined Black-owned Hackney just this season: “It’s been fairly busy. Jackson [Jackson Mclarty – the founder of BlackEatsLDN and curator of Black-owned Hackney] has done a really good job of curating the whole market. It’s always great to see loads of people coming out to support black businesses.”
Creator of Quote Bags, an independent brand of bags and clothing with “funny, inspirational, debatable” phrases on them, Zoe, shared the same sentiment about the event as others did. She said: “I love the fact that it’s got a community vibe. I love the fact that people want to come down and spend their time and their money.”
For a fresh and independent business Quote Bags, the event was an opportunity to learn, make connections, and grow – around 200,000 people attended Black-Owned Hackney during its season. “It’s open to everyone, but the main focus was elevate the black economy with that pound.”
When asked about the weekend being the last one for Black-owned Hackney, Zoe referred to it as “bittersweet”.
“But I am a firm believer that nothing should stay the same as we become too comfortable.”
“BlackEats has made its name as one of the biggest markets in London,” said Zoe, “it created a movement that will continue. And I am proud to have been a part of that.”