A Place For Words: Creative Consultation in Hackney Wick

What happened?

Hackney Wick SRB (in East London) commissioned a five-year arts programme as part of a regeneration process taking place in Hackney Wick. Writer Paul Shepheard, visual artist Martin Richman, and landscape architects, Gross Max, ran a project to consult local young people about their relationship to their area and their aspirations for a new park.

Paul ran workshops in two local schools. He wrote a poem born out of his conversations with the young people, that capture their personalities, hopes and fears. He took one group to Greenwich, and watching the children roll down the hill from the Observatory, made the connection that there are no hills in Hackney Wick. Paul fed the work he had created through conversation with the young people, and his own observations about their thinking and behaviour, back to Gross Max Architects. Additionally he connected the children's behaviour in Greenwich, and their obsession with football, with an image of a football field with a raised ridge around the pitch. The result was a design for the new park which incorporates a circular ridge suggestive of play, and also protects the quiet green space of the park from the busy road nearby.

The following is an extract from the end of Paul's poem. To read the whole piece, go to www.paulshepheard.com and double click on the Hackney Poems icon in the top left corner.

My name is Kabul and I’m quiet and short and observant
I think the most interesting thing is the way the rooftops meet the sky
All round you, there’s a join between the buildings and the trees and the sky
And it’s always there wherever you go
Sometimes it’s nearer than further
Have I ever been to the seaside?
No way, man, but I will
My name is Mary and my whole name is Mary Elizabeth Margaret Moynehan
I think what we need is tree houses
I think what we need is a tower as high as that electricity pylon
I think what we need is to see all the way across London
Without getting killed.

Project Gallery

Hackney Wick 1

Writer, Paul Shepheard with young people from Hackney Wick on project visit to Greenwich. Photographer: Michael Franke

Hackney Wick 2

Running down the hill below Greenwich Observatory. Photographer: Michael Franke

Hackney Wick 3

A view over Greenwich. Photographer: Michael Franke

What made it work?

  • A subtle approach to consultation, creative exploration of the possibilities of a space.
  • A partnership between a writer, visual artist and architecture practice that allowed real communication and listening between both partners.
  • A dedicated arts manager who brought together the creative practitioners and enabled them to work with all interested parties (local residents, council departments, schools, funders etc.)
  • The writer had the freedom, and trust invested in him, to follow his own creative response to the place and the young people he consulted, thus becoming a creative part of the process rather than merely a conduit for information.

Further information and links:

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