Having grown up in South West London, the Northern boroughs had remained fairly unexplored for me until recently, following my decision to get to know the ins and outs of London. In fact, I only realised last week that inner London postcodes are arranged in compass directions, with Hackney being in the region of N postcodes! Of course, this now seems extremely obvious but being just outside this zone myself with a Twickenham postcode, I’d never made the connection and had just associated my brief forays into W postcodes as being associated with Westminster, not West London – it’s useful to know now!
So, as you may have seen in a previous post, I went to Hackney to go to Palm Vaults café in the E8 postcode zone, just slightly across from the Northern area. From there, I decided to venture down across Hackney as I had a few museums in mind that I wanted to visit, going down by bus so I could see more of the area out of the window (we also got the Overground there through Camden, which is another great way to see the outskirts of the city!). Below you can see one of the high streets, showing a residential but busy area full of vibrant shops and businesses. Here is an overview of what we got up to in and around the area:
Before straying too far from breakfast, my sister and I wandered down the high street and came across the free Hackney Museum documenting the history of the borough. I really enjoy visiting area-specific museums as it can give you a great insight into where you are, its history and even present day demographic. Even if you just have a quick look, it’s such a good idea to look for this type of thing when visiting a new area so you can get a bit of background. Hackney museum was split into several sections, with a number of them based around the contributions of immigrants to the city over the centuries, reflecting the multicultural nature of this area that has been long established. It was a well-laid out, accessible and informative space that I think is great for the inhabitants as a celebration of their hometown and also those from further afield wanting to learn more.
Following this, a quick bus ride down to City Road took me past London Fields, a large park that is perfect for a sunny day, the Geffrye Museum with exhibitions on British home life, and the sunny streets of Hackney and Shoreditch. The bus is an often forgotten means of transport when the Tube is around, but I would definitely recommend it as you can actually see around you!
This is a wonderful, open exhibition space with regularly changing displays, and I had seen a recommendation for the current exhibition, Paso by Secundio Hernández, in a magazine. Who wouldn’t be drawn in by a photo of the gorgeous and highly textured rainbow canvas? Spanning two floors, this gallery hosts a beautiful exposé of Hernández’ exploratory tableaus, with both sparsely and richly coloured paintings to show the breadth of his work. The upstairs floor’s protagonist is the custom-made largest canvas that was created over time to add layers of colour and texture, to invite the onlooker to consider the different levels and colours. I have added several pictures so that you can appreciate the wonderful depth on this “palette” of colour which was incredibly beautiful.
Of course, it would depend what exhibition is on as to whether you’d want to visit this, but do check out their website for details (you can see the above until May 6th). It is an unassuming venue, with just a small banner outside and a buzzer to enter, but these are often the best.
Parasol Unit – Foundation for Contemporary Art
Situated right next door to Victoria Miro and actually with an interconnected outdoor terrace and garden, it would be a shame not to visit this contemporary art space at the same time. It has a similar layout to its neighbour and once again offers a main exhibition, with the one I saw being Morgenland by Elger Esser, a series of photographic works taken and created across Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt. The works aim to create a spirit of reconciliation, with some of the photos tracing rivers and borders, and my personal favourite being a double-sided photograph taken at the same place but facing opposite directions, on the border between two countries.
Outside, there is also a lovely terrace with benches and a stream, and currently you can also see the sculpture pictured in the bottom right: The Panoramic Dailies #2 by Julien Tiberi. It shows a number of figures huddled in a circle, and it creates a sense of mystery as you attempt to see what is happening in the middle.
As with above, check out their website for details. This gallery is also free of charge.
Shoreditch / Whitecross Market
From the two galleries on Wharf Road, I meandered down to the Barbican as it was a beautiful day and I just wanted to walk. I was so amazed by some of the beautiful buildings and parks I saw: on the top left you can see the cool skyscraper on City Road and at the bottom the lovely Fortune Street Park just near the Barbican. It was so refreshing to be walking around a new area of London; I know I keep saying it but I’m really starting to appreciate how many hidden gems and tranquil oases you can find there. In the right-hand photos you can see Whitecross Street, where I stumbled across a delicious-smelling food market that leads you all the way down to the Barbican. I won’t hesitate to go back there sometime when I haven’t had a huge breakfast to grab some lunch!
Barbican Centre // Curve Gallery
I can’t remember whether I have visited the Barbican before, but since the exhibitions change I guess it doesn’t matter. It is a wonderful cultural centre located in the heart of London, with theatres, art exhibitions, education spaces, cafés and shops. On this visit, I just had a look around the centre and visited one of the free exhibitions with the aim to return to visit the enticing sounding “Japanese House” (also highly recommended) exhibition sometime in June.
The exhibition I did manage to see was in the aptly named Curve Gallery, which is essentially a long, curved corridor. Currently, there is an audiovisual display of work primarily by Richard Mosse, a documentary photographer. Using an extremely powerful thermographic camera intended for military use, Mosse creates a poignant narrative of the refugee crisis in the Aegean Sea, portraying these long-distance and breathlessly sharp thermal images to show refugees in what is quite an unsettling but thought-provoking manner. At the end is an optional 52-minute video shot with these cameras and displayed across three screens. I would really recommend the exhibition as something that makes you think, due to its subject matter and the way in which it was created. I know I will be back to the Barbican soon to check out more of what it has to offer.
This rounds up another post in this London series, I hope you have enjoyed another insight into an area of London and discovered some new options and places you could maybe visit one day! More posts like this are on the way; I’ll try to keep them regular but I have one more week of class then two weeks of exams so bear with me for now 🙂 Hope everyone had a lovely Easter!