E8: The Heart of Hackney
16 June - 15 July 2007 Fri-Sun 12-6pm
London Fields (from the Swansongs series)
E8's saving fallback is London Fields. 'It is not a park, but common land,' says Tom Hunter, who is showing at E8 an image of the Fields at night, 'a stop-off for flocks of sheep being herded to London markets, so it never closes.' Fitting that the postcode's main space should feel lawless. Indeed, the shape of the borough mimics the outline of the Fields itself, as if the borough is an extension of its prized, rudderless asset. 'For over 20 years I've lived within 100 yards of the Fields, in eight different flats or houses,' says Hunter. 'It's where I have always gone to meet up with my friends on a summer evening. Somewhere to play football, frisbee, baseball and even volleyball for a few summers. It has also acted as a venue, where you can take your own drinks and sit out underneath a nuclear pink and red light-polluted sky.'
Hunter's image taps the fear that still seeps the Fields, even though its south edge leads to Broadway Market, E8's area of sudden, sharp gentrification. 'Walking across the park's open spaces after dark becomes a gamble with life itself,' he says. 'This violence is all but forgotten now on a sunny Saturday afternoon on Broadway Market, where the boarded up and derelict buildings have been transformed into havens for latte-swilling mums and their 4x4 buggies, with talk of dole queues and violence drowned out by tales of huge property deals and profits.' Which gets to the crux of this uneasy social shift: sneering is easy at life-by-Farmers-Market, but who has fondness for the social malaise it now overrides?
From 'E8 A Modern Mess' in the publication E8: The Heart of Hackney