Hackney Wick

Hemmed in by the busy A12 dual carriageway to the north and west, and by the River Lee navigation to the south and east, Hackney Wick feels like an island: a strange and unique place, cut off from the rest of the city, a haven for artists and craftspeople.

Gentrification stops for no one, though. What did for it was the Olympics: the games pumped in billions of pounds worth of funding to regenerate the area, and the Wick – just twenty metres or so of canal away from the Olympic Park – was never going to survive unscathed.

And so, for now at least, it’s a strange mix of luxury flats, dilapidated artists’ studios, plant hire firms, warehouses, graffiti-covered walls, hipster pubs and Michelin-starred restaurants.

One of the most famous symbols of Hackney Wick is the former Lord Napier pub, which closed in 1995. It became a canvas for local graffiti artists to protest the gentrification of the Wick; much of its graffiti dates to one marathon 48-hour painting session led by artist Aida Wilde in 2016.

The former Lord Napier pub, with its iconic “from shithouse to penthouse” graffiti, seen here in July 2019.
It sits just across from the luxury flats of the Bagel Factory, “a flagship collection of unique warehouse style apartments” built in a former bagel factory.
Perhaps predictably, the Lord Napier has now reopened as a hipster pub, with live DJs and a roof terrace.

The Wick has been home to artists for years, but since the Olympic games there has been an emergence of more corporate-sponsored creativity.

The White Building, Queen’s Yard, an “open space for fearless experimentation at the intersection of art, technology and sustainability”, run by SPACE Studios. July 2019.
The White Building, July 2019.

The Wick is still dominated by more organic graffiti, though.

“This ship is sinking.” White Post Lane, July 2019.
White Post Lane, July 2019.
Just across the canal, and so just outside the Wick, is the Olympic Park. The black building is the heat generator that supplied heating and hot water to the Olympic games, and now supplies local homes.
The best seat in the house: Schwartz Wharf.
Schwartz Wharf, July 2019.
New flats on Wallis Road, the street on which the world’s first plastic was invented in 1866.