There’s a large and evocative exhibition at the Hackney Museum that looks at local life from the 1970s activism and poverty and how the people have changed over the decades.

Covering some 50 years of life, it’s a wide-ranging collection, and while much of the display is the sort of photos you’d expect to see of Hackney in the past decades, it’s still fascinating to see and be reminded of what life was like not that long ago.

From the poverty of the east end to the vibrancy of immigration, the dark years of the 1980s when violence surged, and the more recent rediscovery of the area as people moved in, initially for the cheap housing and now for the culture.

Central to the exhibition, though, is also something physical – a large-scale model of the Holly Street Estate tower block, made from photos of the estate in 1997 by the artist Tom Hunter. And do peer into the model, as some of the flats have photos of the former occupants inside them.

At the end of the exhibition are some fascinating then and now photos, not of specific people, but of places – such as the 1970s Sainsbury’s contrasted with the modern Amazon Fresh, or the tailor’s shop compared to a modern clothes retailer.

There’s a lot to see and so many characters who once agreed to be photographed by some random stranger on the streets who had no idea that years later, they’d be in a museum exhibition.

The exhibition, At Home in Hackney, is open until Saturday 23rd March 2024. The Hackney Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday and is free to visit. It’s also open late to 8pm on Thursdays.

There’s also a much smaller exhibition about playspaces in Hackney that’s just opened.


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