Hackney WickED Art Festival

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Every summer (recently), hipster magnet of the world Hackney Wick hosts an art fair, to which Elke lured me yesterday. After a hectic week, I was reluctant to travel that far east, but it ended being the best day out I’ve had in awhile.

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The warehouses in this once industrial neighborhood now house Europe’s greatest concentration of artists and studios, many of which are open to the public during the Hackney WickED Art Fair.

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I heard a lot of wistful sighs about how wonderful it would be to live in a warehouse. It’s not that great. In Brooklyn, I lived in a warehouse, and while it looked pretty damn cool, my flatmate and I froze in the winter and roasted in the summer. The residents had moved in during the 1970s when New York City started subsidizing housing for artists. Over time, most of them ceased to create but stayed to enjoy cheap rent in what became a fab neighborhood. Point of this digression is that thriving Hackney Wick is the complete opposite, and I really enjoyed wandering the studios of people who are still so passionate about what they do.

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The London Centre for Book Arts opened in Hackney Wick in 2013 to give book art hobbyists and professionals access to printing and binding equipment. Yesterday, they let visitors use the wooden press and we rolled our own little piece of art.

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For dinner on Saturday, I ate guacamole arepas and arancini while listening to live music. I did the same exact thing on Sunday. Another repeat: drinking wine on top of a houseboat we stumbled upon.

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For me, the most magical part of the weekend was the openness of warehouse residents to letting strangers use their bathrooms. This simple act really blew my mind, though Elke didn’t think it was a big deal, saying that using the loo is a human right. Maybe in Germany, but I think in the US, people would be as likely to shoot you as welcome you in if you came knocking to use the toilet.

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One artist, who lived in a building that looked like it should be condemned, lamented that soon he’ll be priced out of the neighborhood. I’m not sure what the solution is. I really like the idea of blended neighborhoods, where artists create, independent shops open up and residents of all incomes can live in and support the neighborhood, but London’s insane real estate prices keep the creatives on the move.

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I of course asked this guy where he planned on moving, to try to get in on the next big thing (because we’re all getting priced out of everywhere). He seemed at a loss, but eventually said, “Perhaps Deptford.” Noted.