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Hackney Wick will become a giant art gallery for a three-day festival

Written by
Katie McCabe

After a break in 2018, Hackney WickED’s three-day weekend party dedicated to the artists of Hackney is back for its tenth birthday

Keeping Hackney WickED’s collective head above water for the last ten years has not been easy. A riotous, sprawling mix of open studios, street art and canalside gigs, the weekend is a chance to interact with the hundreds of artists sculpting, painting, crocheting and smelting away in the industrial units of Hackney Wick and Fish Island. But throwing a party can be bittersweet when the community you’re celebrating is under constant threat of being turfed out.

Hackney WickED performance, 2017, photograph: Mai Nguyen Tri

Last year, the organisers had to take a break to catch their breath. ‘It was a tough time,’ says Hackney WickED’s creative director Anna Maloney. ‘Warehouses were getting ripped down, bridges [were] built that destroyed hundreds of artists’ co-working and living spaces. The pain was raw for the community against a skyline of 20 cranes building luxury flats.’ That threat has intensified rather than dissipated – in April, arts and studio venue Stour Space threw the #SaveOurStour festival to try and keep the lights on, while many artists that have held on to their studios are working on borrowed time in buildings that are marked for demolition or redevelopment. 

Lauren Baker, photograph: Neil Collins

As Hackney WickED festival marks a decade, it’s stepping into this turbulence with a group show, ‘<WHO ARE WE>’, exploring artists’ personal and environmental ‘state of instability or transition’. And that’s just one tiny part of it – WickED is set to be a full takeover of the area. There’s big afterparty planned at former sausage factory Grow on Friday, art tours of Hackney Wick, solo shows, gallery shows and jazz on the Giant Steps terrace by the canal on Sunday.

Make sure you pay the beautiful Old Baths a visit, where, depending on the day, there will be a photo exhibition about Extinction Rebellion, interactive art, a group gardening session and outdoor gigs. More than anything, it’s a chance to meet the community of artists and understand the challenges they face. ‘Everybody sees arts these days as being able to add monetary value,’ says Adele Brydges – whose workshop in Arbeit Studio is filled with elegant sculptures of dildos. ‘It’s very much about consumerism. But everybody has to make money and live in London, don’t we? So we have to find a way to work together.’

Adele Brydges

Hackney Wick has been dubbed London’s Creative Culture Mile, with much emphasis placed on the need for creative businesses, but as Adele points out, we need to make room for the ‘messy creatives’ too.

One of the best parts of Hackney WickED is the chance to nose around the world of those ‘messy creatives’ as more than 100 artists open their studios to the public. See Adele’s ceramic dildos, unsettling sculptures by Wilfrid Wood, or the pulsating light art of Lauren Baker. You could visit them in a gallery, but there’s something special about going straight to the source. As Lauren puts it, ‘your personal space, your mess, your ideas that haven’t formulated… you can’t get any more personal than your studio.’

Various venues in Hackney Wick. Fri Jul 26-Sun Jul 28. Free, register in advance. Visit the Hackney WickED website for a full programme of events

Find more late-night art parties here 

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