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Creating Hackney as Home

17 Mar
The Creating Hackney as Home audience (Photo: Ella Harris).

The Creating Hackney as Home audience (Photo: Ella Harris).

London is a city of constant change. At the moment, you would be hard pushed to find a run-down or poor area that isn’t going through a process of rapid gentrification and development, and Dalston in Hackney is no exception.  There are constant debates in the media and online about this process, but how young people feel about these changes are often overlooked. The Creating Hackney as Home, a youth-led visual research project into home and belonging at the Open University, aimed to rectify that. 5 young people from Dalston were given training in research methods and film making, and each produced a short film about Dalston as their home as part of the project.

These films were shown at the Creating Hackney as Home event on the 5th of March at the Russet in Hackney, alongside Legacy in the Dust, a documentary by local film maker Winstan Whitter about the Four Aces, a club in Dalston that survived for half a century before being knocked down as part of Hackney’s transformation for the Olympics. Two of the Creating Hackney as Home film makers and Winstan Whitter were there to discuss their films with a large and varied audience, including representatives from Hackney council.

Two of the Creating Hackney as Home film makers with Luke Dickens, one of the organisers of the project (Photo: Ella Harris).

Two of the Creating Hackney as Home film makers with Luke Dickens, one of the organisers of the project (Photo: Ella Harris).

The Creating Hackney as Home films were fantastic. Each one took a different approach to thinking about Dalston as the place where they grew up, ranging from fashion to basketball. The films, and the discussion afterwards, were eloquent, intelligent and thought-provoking. One of the main points to come out of the discussion is that young people have plenty of opinions and things to say, they just need the opportunity to have their voice heard and the films proved it.

Legacy in the Dust is also a wonderful film. Winstan Whitter has made a nostalgic tribute to a club that he has known since childhood. The Four Aces Club was such a big part of the London music scene that its story is also the story of black music in Britain. It complemented the Creating Hackney as Home films well, speaking to the themes of belonging, home, and transformation.

Winstan Whitter answers questions about his documentary 'Legacy in the Dust' (Photo: Ella Harris).

Winstan Whitter answers questions about his documentary ‘Legacy in the Dust’ (Photo: Ella Harris).

It’s not often that Passengerfilms takes a trip out of central London, but the Creating Hackney as Home event was well worth it. It was an evening that proved the importance of self-reflection for communities that are changing rapidly, and demonstrated the dynamism and creativity of London’s young people, a resource that we would be foolish to waste.

The Art of Skating

25 Jan
The first Passengerfilms of 2015 had a great turnout (Photo: Thomas Dekeyser.)

The first Passengerfilms of 2015 had a great turnout (Photo: Thomas Dekeyser).

Tuesday night saw the launch of Passengerfilm’s 2015 programme in the Jetlag Bar, Fitzrovia. The title of the evening, curated by Dr. Oli Mould, was The Art of Skating. The evening began with a showing of Blue Line, a short film that follows skateboarders as they move through the urban landscape. The feature film was Beautiful Losers, a documentary about a group of American artists who became famous for their ‘do-it-yourself’ style of street art in the 1990s. A short film called Xerox and Destroy was also shown, about the Photocopy Club, an unconventional exhibition of skateboard photography. The discussion after the screenings was chaired by Dr. Harriet Hawkins (Royal Holloway, University of London), and featured Professor Iain Borden (Bartlett School, UCL), Marc Vallée, a documentary photographer, and Sabina Andron (Bartlett School, UCL).

The films shown focused around art and skateboarding (Photo: Thomas Dekeyser).

The films shown focused around art and skateboarding (Photo: Thomas Dekeyser).

The purpose of the evening was to think about how alternative creative subcultures such as skateboarding can be accepted by the mainstream, often because of rather than despite their subversive and anti-establishment nature. This is not a seamless process however, and tension and conflict can often be sparked by the perceived ‘institutionalisation’ or ‘selling out’ taking place. Much of the discussion revolved around this process. The artists in Beautiful Losers achieved mainstream commercial success, with one even doing the art for a Pepsi ad campaign. There was debate over whether selling your work makes it somehow less ‘authentic,’ and whether artists are ever non-commercial- surely they all hope to make a living out of their art?

There was also extensive discussion about the connections between skateboarding and graffiti. They are both subversive counter-cultures, but they have both also proved to be incredibly commercially successful, capable of generating large amounts of income. For example Vans, a well-known shoe brand made popular by skaters plans to have annual revenues of $2.2. Billion by 2016.  Marc Vallée made the point that skateboarding is part of a range of creativities that all feed off of each other, and Iain Borden traced the connection back to the Zoo York crew in the mid-1970s.

The discussion was lively and thoughtful (Photo: Thomas Dekeyser).

The discussion was lively and thoughtful (Photo: Thomas Dekeyser).


Skateboarding and street art are two of the things that make the urban feel edgy, unconventional, and just the right amount of dangerous. As such, they can be very popular, but the debate about the impacts of the transition to the mainstream rages on. Undoubtedly there is no easy answer, but we at Passengerfilms had a fantastic time discussing it with an engaged and enthusiastic audience. Thank you to everyone who came along and took part.